Author head shot

I am a Professor of History at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) whose research is on the history of drugs, with a focus on the legal kind--psychoactive pharmaceuticals. I explore the nature and trajectory of drug commerce, drug use, and drug policy in American racial capitalism. You can find my work in, among other places, American Quarterly, the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the Washington PostAtlantic Monthly Online, and in two books, White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America (University of Chicago press, 2020) and Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac (Johns Hopkins, 2009). I am also Coordinator of Addiction Studies at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and co-Editor of the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, the peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal of the Alcohol and Drug History Society.

Cover of the book White Market Drugs
cover of book Happy Pills in America

Winner, Rorabaugh Prize from the Alcohol and Drug History Society (2022)

 

White Market Drugs tells the story of how the drug industry, regulators, journalists, and consumers together built mass, segregated markets for potentially addictive pharmaceuticals amidst the 20th century's racialized anti-"drug" campaigns.  It analyzes why these white markets faced three major periods of crisis over the past 150 years:  a crisis of morphine addiction in the late 19th/early 20th century; of barbiturate, amphetamine, and Quaalude addiction in the mid 20th century; and of all three classes of drugs in the 21st century. In response to these crises reformers sought to protect rather than punish socially favored white market consumers by robustly regulating rather than prohibiting drugs.  These successful but largely forgotten reforms were the closest the U.S. has come to effective drug policy, and could serve as a model for addressing current crises if applied to all consumers rather than just the ones we call "patients."

Happy Pills in America is a cultural history of modern psychiatric drugs framed around the stories of Miltown, Valium, and Prozac--three of the best known and most widely used medicines in the postwar era.  Beginning with the emergence of a medical marketplace for psychoactive drugs in the postwar consumer culture, Happy Pills traces how "happy pills" became embroiled in Cold War gender battles and the explosive politics of the "war against drugs"--and how feminists brought the two issues together in a dramatic campaign against Valium addiction in the 1970s. A final chapter examines how Prozac's boosters revived faith in wonder drugs by successfully joining consumerism and biological psychiatry to conjure visions of unbounded psychological free choice.