The History of Addiction in America
If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ― Michael Crichton
History is the ultimate elder, whether her truths are drawn from dusty tomes or passed on by our most revered storytellers. The early history of addiction in America has been well-told, most notably in such classic works as William Rorabaugh’s The Alcoholic Republic, David Musto’s The American Disease, H. Wayne Morgan’s Drugs in America, David Courtwright’s Dark Paradise, and Sarah Tracy’s Alcoholism in America.
I faced a unique challenge in writing Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America. The original manuscript was more than 1,000 pages—a length too intimidating for most readers. To cut the manuscript by more than half, I deleted all but the briefest of summaries on the history of addiction and focused the book on the history of addiction treatment and addiction recovery. In recent months I have gone through the deleted material and edited it into bite-size stories that capture some of the more interesting chapters within America’s unending love affair with intoxicants of all varieties.
Thirty-nine historical vignettes drawn from the first draft of Slaying the Dragon have been added to the new Addiction History Briefs section of my website. The vignettes span drunkenness in Colonial America, the invention of the hypodermic syringe, the role of race in early anti-drug laws, the introduction of heroin in American medicine, the evolution of the American drug culture, and such exotic footnotes as the tale of the psychedelic toad. More will likely be added as time allows, but interested readers may now explore these first excerpted stories by clicking here.