Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Review: This is Your Country on Drugs

A few days ago I mentioned that if anyone wrote a review of Ryan Grim's new book, I would post it on the blog. Cory Spicer decided to step up to the plate and I am pleased to share his review below. Thanks Cory!

When Ryan Grim wrote a Slate piece in April 2004 about the disappearance of LSD from the recreational drug scene, he envisioned it as a standalone observation of an interesting but mostly trivial phenomenon. However, as reader reaction poured in, Grim realized that he had tapped into an intense interest among the American public regarding drug use, and that much more could be written about the topic. He then began collecting research and outlining what would ultimately become This is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America.

While Grim has spent time advocating for marijuana legalization as a member of Marijuana Policy Project, This is Your Country on Drugs is not centered around advocacy for a given drug policy. Rather, it is a thoroughly interesting study of the historic interplay between the enduring American desire for altered consciousness and the equally enduring efforts to suppress, direct, and control this desire.

From the explosion of narcotics-laced pharmaceuticals in the face of the 19th century alcohol temperance movement to the arrival of designer hallucinogens in the vacuum created by the aforementioned LSD drought, Grim clearly demonstrates what he calls a “balloon effect” with American drug use. When legal or societal pressures put the use of one substance in a negative light, use of other drugs will inevitably increase in a roughly proportional fashion – analogous to squeezing one end of an inflated balloon and pushing the air to the other end. Americans like to get high, according to Grim, and there is little that can be reasonably done to alter this desire or to suppress its indulgence.

Packed with anecdotes, interviews, and statistics, This is Your Country on Drugs is a highly informative read for anyone interested in American drug appetites and the real-world effects of American drug control policy. Crucially, Grim’s approach is not overly clinical, and he freely weaves personal stories and thoughts into his work. The result is an accessible and entertaining read that is also very well-researched and intellectually sound.


  1. Thanks again for writing this, Cory!

    I included an image of Grim's book but unfortunately there is a border around the image that I would like to get rid of... does everyone see this border or is it a quirk of my Safari browser? I already have the border=0 in the HTML, so I'm not sure how to make it go away. :-(

  2. The border is visible on my computer but not a distraction.
    I'm still reading the book, went back and re read some chapters so that has slowed me down. It's one of the most well written books I've read in a very long time and find it an invaluable tool when confronting brainless, robotic individuals concerning this subject.

  3. Yes, thank you Cory for the review.

    (Safari) View > View Source. And scroll down to ".post img" that code there defines the style for images in your posts. :-) Since this css is in the page itself and not in a style sheet that's linked in, it may be that you have control of it someplace in the blogger interface.

    You may be able to override it like this. In your post, above that image tag, include this code:

    <style id='page-skin-1' type='text/css'> <!--
    .post img {
    --> </style>

    Put that code on its own line after the title of the book which ends the 2nd paragraph of the post.

  4. The border attribute in the img tag defines how thick the border will be when the image is a link. So in reality, the border is zero. :-)

    I know the style name is exactly the same, but I think that's because back when the border attribute in the image tag was created there was no such thing as HTML style sheets. Then style sheets came along. So, things can get confusing.

    I'm hungry for scrambled eggs now! (Not a big fan of fried eggs.)

  5. Thanks I will give that code a try... hopefully I can fix it. I know it's not a huge deal but it irks me for some reason!

    Lea - glad you are enjoying the book. I am hoping to get a copy in the next few months. I read "Marijuana is Safer" over the past few weeks and really liked it.

  6. Hey everyone, thanks for the kind words! Happy to share my thoughts.


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