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Prescription, illicit, and recreational drugs touch all of our lives yet a basic understanding of these chemicals is largely absent among Americans. Jerrold Winter offers a comprehensive account of psychoactive drugs, chemicals which influence our brains in myriad ways. Manifestations of their influence on the brain are quite varied. There may be the comfort provided by opioids to those who are dying or in pain or, in everyday life, the surge of contentment for the users of caffeine, nicotine, heroin, alcohol, or marijuana upon the taking of their drug of choice. Turning to the more exotic, a drug such as LSD may alter the way the world looks to us; it may even inspire thoughts of God. Adding to the purely scientific questions which confront us are the ways in which our society chooses to respond to the presence of psychoactive drugs. Should they be banned and their users sent to prison, tolerated as a reflection of man's eternal search for an escape from anxiety, pain, and the monotony of daily life, or celebrated as therapeutically useful agents?
Our Love Affair with Drugs is written for experts and novices alike. There are stories of, for example, how Timothy Leary caused the repeal of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Readers will learn of the transformation by Sir Charles Locock of a drug intended to dampen female sexual activity into the first effective drug for the treatment of the ancient disease of epilepsy. Alexander Shulgin's love of psychoactive drugs and his unconventional research practices illuminate the story of methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a.k.a. Ecstasy, a drug now likely to find value in treating veterans and others suffering post-traumatic distress disorder. Winter links the excitement of drug discovery with the very practical matter of balancing the benefits and risks of these drugs