Drugged: The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs

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Read our policy. Registration is free, quick and easy. You'll be able to read more articles, watch more videos and listen to more podcasts. It takes less than a minute and it's completely free. Psychotropic drugs — compounds that alter our perception and consciousness — fascinate us. They have left a lasting impression on our culture and history, securing their place in everyday life — think caffeine or alcohol.


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Richard Miller , a pharmacology researcher at Northwestern University, US, and a medical humanities and bioethics professor, has written his first popular science book on the chemistry and culture of psychoactive compounds. In Drugged , Miller combines his enjoyment of the topic with scientific rigour when it comes to presenting facts and explanations. Although individual chapters discuss distinct compounds or groups, Miller frequently references previous content, creating an overarching narrative rather than a glossary collection to dip in and out of.

Drugged is an expert mix of scientific history, chemical, biological and medical facts, along with some sociocultural background. The book starts off with a chapter on the mushroom-derived muscimol and other entheogens — hallucinogenic chemicals are thought to have played a significant part in the development of early religions. Some chapters discuss whole compound classes — namely antipsychotics and antidepressants such as fluoxetine — better known as Prozac — whose stories are inevitably intertwined with the rise of the medicinal chemical industry.

Miller uses the chapter on barbiturates and benzodiazepines to explain the structure and function of the all-important GABAA receptor — a chloride ion channel that is targeted by many psychotropic compounds. Actually read the thing. In this book, various illness and the drugs used to treat them are examined through scopes of the very large personal relationships and societal attitudes and the very small deliciously awesome biochemistry. IMO, the section on schizophrenia was the best part of the book. This book is unfortunately too technical to follow in audiobook format.

Many, many sentences contain long chemical names.

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I have a degree in chemistry and I enjoy neurology etc audiobooks but I found this just to heavy to follow as an audiobook, with too much about chemical formuations and not enough "story" or general information, anecdotes etc to hold my interest. The narrator sounds like a cross between Tom Baker and Brian Blessed and does a pretty good job considering the material he is reading. Sorry, I can't recommend this, even as an avid scientist. I enjoyed the book, very thorough and comprehensive look at psychotropic and mood altering drugs illegal and prescribed. Annoyingly, the narrator mispronounces a lot of the scientific terminology which can be distracting, but the content of the book is rigorous and solid.

I enjoyed the occasional anecdotes that related to certain drugs, as well as the historical context of their development and popular reception. You have to be paying attention to pick up the science but it is explained well. After my listen,I ordered the hard copy. Its true that biochemistry does not easily translate to the spoken word. But this is minimal. The book is a most understandable explanation of the origins of modern psychotropic drugs. As a practicing physician, I can only wish that this be made recommended reading for medical professionals.

But it is not dry and technical. It encompasses the lives and times of the persons behind the discoveries. Whatever deficiencies which must accompany such an ambitious undertaking, the value of the research and technical insight is nothing short of brilliant. If the origin and discovery of drugs is your interest, then this book is a six out of five. I have never enjoyed a book so much. Even topic and chapter was filled with so much information and being a person who loves the subject as well of being a science minded person I just found I was totally absorbed. I love how the book covered all the drugs including tea coffee and chocolate.

I didn't expect them to be in here.

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With personal links to a fare few of the subject in this book I could really relate to the material and understand each of the situations. I thought the book flowed brilliantly and the narration was perfect.

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I wish I could find another book on this topic to listen to. By: Richard J.

Narrated by: Roger Clark. Length: 15 hrs and 42 mins. Categories: Non-fiction , Medicine. Publisher's Summary "Morphine," writes Richard J. Entertaining and authoritative, Drugged is a truly fascinating book. What members say Average Customer Ratings Overall. Amazon Reviews.

No Reviews are Available. Sort by:. After this purely serendipitous occurrence, 8, tons of this medication were prescribed in one year. First seen purely as a weed, it was then a cultivated crop for the production of hemp used in the making of rope.

A pleasurable and harmless stimulant. Most recently, in addition to its legitimate medicinal use for glaucoma, nausea, and appetite increase in cancer patients, it is now legalized for recreational use in two American states with a number of other states likely to follow. In addition to the chapters showing vicissitudes in the perception and use of heroin and THC, likewise fascinating are the history of the development of psychotropic medications for a variety of mental health conditions, each of which has its unique history depending on the ideas, goals, and serendipity that has inevitably driven drug design.


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  • True to the subtitle, the book also examines in depth much of the science involved in drug development and the mechanisms of action in the human brain. The science is presented in great detail, most of which is difficult to understand or of little interest to the average reader. Written by a neuropharmacologist and university professor, these sections read more like a textbook than casual reading.

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    At times, the author drifts inexplicably into discussions of the causes of mental illness, including a lengthy vignette about the musician Robert Schumann. After lengthy failed attempts at diagnosis he was found to have neurosyphilis, an infectious and inflammatory condition.

    BEHIND THE SCIENCE: Drug sewers (National Geographic) (UK)

    Presumably included to outline a future course of drug development, the story and chapter does not fit well with the rest of the book.

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