Recommended Books

Learn about drugs, the history of the drug war and drug policy with these recommended books from leading experts in the reform movement. Our list is updated regularly.

When They Call You a Terrorist
A Black Lives Matter Memoir
By Patrisse Kahn-Cullors and asha bandele

From one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, who helped turn a hashtag into global movement, comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity co-authored with award-winning author, journalist and activist, asha bandele. When They Call You a Terrorist takes an intimate look at Khan-Cullors’ childhood in in Van Nuys, California—an epicenter of the drug war. Surrounded by a devoted family and supportive friends, Khan-Cullor’s experience is woven into a larger narrative about the constant and hostile presence and actions of law enforcement against primarily young Black and Latino people. From the harsh actions of the police, to the lack of basic social and medical services, Khan-Cullors and bandele show how the absence of personal security and dignity makes daily life an act of survival.

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Meth Wars 
Police, Media, and Power
By Travis Linnemann

How the War on Drugs is maintained through racism, authority and public opinion. From the hit television series Breaking Bad, to daily news reports, anti-drug advertising campaigns and  highly publicized world-wide hunts for “narcoterrorists” such as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the drug, methamphetamine occupies a unique and important space in the public’s imagination.  In Meth Wars, Travis Linnemann situates the "meth epidemic" within the broader culture and politics of drug control and mass incarceration.

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Happy Pills in America 
From Midtown to Prozac
By David Harzberg

Valium. Paxil. Prozac. Prescribed by the millions each year, these medications have been hailed as wonder drugs and vilified as numbing and addictive crutches. Where did this "blockbuster drug" phenomenon come from? What factors led to the mass acceptance of tranquilizers and antidepressants? And how has their widespread use affected American culture?

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A Short History
By John Hudak

With long-time legal and social barriers to marijuana falling across much of the United States, the time has come for an accessible and informative look at attitudes toward the dried byproduct of Cannabis sativa. Marijuana: A Short History profiles the politics and policies concerning the five-leaf plant in the United States and around the world.

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Model Airplanes
The Glue-Sniffing Epidemic of the 1960s
By Thomas Aiello

Model Airplanes are Decadent and Depraved tells the story of the American glue-sniffing epidemic of the 1960s, from the first reports of use to the unsuccessful crusade for federal legislation in the early 1970s. The human obsession with inhalation for intoxication has deep roots, from the oracle at Delphi to Judaic biblical ritual. The discovery of nitrous oxide, ether, and chloroform in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and the later development of paint thinners, varnishes, lighter fluid, polishes, and dry-cleaning supplies provided a variety of publicly available products with organic solvents that could be inhaled for some range of hallucinogenic or intoxicating effect. Model airplane glue was one of those products, but did not appear in warnings until the first reports of problematic behavior appeared in 1959, when children in several western cities were arrested for delinquency after huffing glue. Newspaper coverage both provided the initial shot across the bow for research into the subject and convinced children to give it a try. This “epidemic” quickly spread throughout the nation and the world.

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A State Built on Sand
How Opium Undermined Afghanistan
By David Mansfield

Mansfield's book examines why drug control - particularly opium bans - have been imposed in Afghanistan; he documents the actors involved; and he scrutinizes how prohibition served divergent and competing interests. Drawing on almost two decades of fieldwork in rural areas, he explains how these bans affected farming communities, and how prohibition endured in some areas while in others opium production bans undermined livelihoods and destabilized the political order, fuelling violence and rural rebellion.

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