The use and abuse of psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs is an integral part of the human experience. Society has long viewed substance abuse through many eyes: criminal activity, moral failing, illness and disability, or simply the exercise of individual liberty. Nonetheless, whether the drugs involved are "legal" or "illicit," substance abuse is a major public health hazard.
Author Peter Cohen offers a thorough and thoughtful discussion of the major legal, ethical, and policy considerations that society faces as it deals with substance abuse and dependence (addiction). Several major areas will be addressed: (1) the differences and similarities between "legal" and "scientific" reasoning; (2) the science of drug dependence; (3) balancing the rights inherent in maintaining individual liberty and autonomy with the needs of society (an integral requirement of public health as a medical and legal discipline); (4) the role of criminalization in attempting to control what many believe to be a medical problem; (5) the application of disability law to substance abuse and dependence; (6) "legitimizing" the use of smoked marijuana for medical purposes; and (7) the concept that if substance abuse is, at least in part, a public health problem, it should be amenable to therapy similar to other medical conditions and should receive parity in regulation, treatment, and research.
"In summary, this book is superb. It informs, challenges, educates, and demystifies our system of drug laws. I came away with deep respect for the monumental challenge faced by the author and for the excellence of his final product."
—Keith H. Berge, M.D., Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Anesthesiology, October 2005