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On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamineby Nicolas Rasmussen
Synopses & Reviews
Life in the Fast Lane: The author on the CHE
Uppers. Crank. Bennies. Dexies. Greenies. Black Beauties. Purple Hearts. Crystal. Ice. And, of course, Speed. Whatever their street names at the moment, amphetamines have been an insistent force in American life since they were marketed as the original antidepressants in the 1930s. On Speed tells the remarkable story of their rise, their fall, and their surprising resurgence. Along the way, it discusses the influence of pharmaceutical marketing on medicine, the evolving scientific understanding of how the human brain works, the role of drugs in maintaining the social order, and the centrality of pills in American life. Above all, however, this is a highly readable biography of a very popular drug. And it is a riveting story.
Incorporating extensive new research, On Speed describes the ups and downs (fittingly, there are mostly ups) in the history of amphetamines, and their remarkable pervasiveness. For example, at the same time that amphetamines were becoming part of the diet of many GIs in World War II, an amphetamine-abusing counterculture began to flourish among civilians. In the 1950s, psychiatrists and family doctors alike prescribed amphetamines for a wide variety of ailments, from mental disorders to obesity to emotional distress. By the late 1960s, speed had become a fixture in everyday life: up to ten percent of Americans were thought to be using amphetamines at least occasionally.
Although their use was regulated in the 1970s, it didn't take long for amphetamines to make a major comeback, with the discovery of Attention Deficit Disorder and the role that one drug in the amphetamine family—Ritalin—could play in treating it. Todays most popular diet-assistance drugs differ little from the diet pills of years gone by, still speed at their core. And some of our most popular recreational drugs—including the "mellow" drug, Ecstasy—are also amphetamines. Whether we want to admit it or not, writes Rasmussen, were still a nation on speed.
Violence has become a ubiquitous phenomenon in our world. Occurring daily across the globe, violence is sparked by diverse and complicated societal and political factors. While certain aspects of violence such as terrorism have received increasing scrutiny in recent years, violence has rarely been examined as a political phenomenon in and of itself.
Emphasizing the importance of memory, narrative, and political solidarity, The Legitimization of Violence enlists illuminating case studies for comparison, within a general framework of discourse theory. Not merely a description of events, the book explores how violence evolves and takes on a life of its own, thereby enhancing our fundamental understanding of the phenomenon of political violence itself.
Violence, nationalism, and politics are inextricably linked in such controversial political movements as Neo-Nazism in contemporary Germany and the Shi'ia in Lebanon. By analyzing the diverse factors which lead to violent acts, the essays in this volume address the complexity and the correlations between politics and violence. International scholars assess such groups as the Shining Path in Peru and the E.T.A. in Spain's Basque country to reveal how political violence affects the chaotic living condition of millions of people worldwide.
About the Author
Nicolas Rasmussen is Associate Professor in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Picture Control: The Electron Microscope and the Transformation of Biology in America, 1940-1960.
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