Student review: The Drug Effect: Health, Crime and Society

May 24, 2012

Editors: Suzanne Fraser and David Moore

Edition: First

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Pages: 260

Price: £32.99

ISBN: 9780521156059

As the debate about drug use and addiction rages on in the media, it would be easy to dismiss this book - going solely by its title - as another tome cashing in on society’s woes and worries.

However, this collection of critical debates, considered from the perspectives of culture, health and law, and provided by a wide variety of academics, presents its arguments in a calm, rational manner while it explores the social construction of illicit drugs and alcohol and their related policies.

The volume pulls together studies from Australia, the US, the UK and Canada, giving it broad appeal and offering insights into a variety of subjects. It jumps from exploring the impact of party drugs on the gay scene to the impact of “helpful” drugs, such as those used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults. This approach can initially appear disjointed, but it is important to recognise that the book is an anthology, which makes it different from most study texts: in other words, it is not designed to be read from beginning to end.

It would have been preferable to see some of the chapters developed further, but this shortcoming is compensated for by well-written sets of references placed at the end of each section rather than at the end of the book, which could have appeared clumsy and overbearing.

Although the sections are written by different academic authors, there is a continuity in the level of expertise assumed, and no section is likely to put off student readers by using overly complicated language. Rather, the chapters are written in a friendly, accessible tone and draw on situations that readers may find easy to relate to, thereby helping to sustain interest. For example, the chapter “Pleasure and pain” explores the representation of illicit drugs and their use in music and films.

When embarking on reading this book, it will be necessary to have some previous knowledge of drugs beyond that of the general reader, but the undergraduate looking for an introductory text will find this book a great reference.

I believe it is a must for any social-work student who is interested in working in the field of drug addiction and treatment. The contributions are easy to read yet thought provoking.

Who is it for? First-year students in social-science courses, in particular social work; higher-level students may prefer a more specialised text.

Presentation: Clear and easily accessible.

Would you recommend it? Yes, as a supplementary text for first-year students in particular, although it is too broad and specialist to serve as a main text.

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