Drugging the Poor: Legal and Illegal Drugs and Social Inequality by Merrill  Singer
293 pages, $33.95 list
1-57766-494-9
978-1-57766-494-9
eBook availability
Drugging the Poor
Legal and Illegal Drugs and Social Inequality
2005 recipient of the Society for the Anthropology of North America’s Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America
2005 recipient of the Society for Medical Anthropology’s Practicing Medical Anthropology Award

Singer offers a fresh set of ideas for understanding how the global socioeconomic system insures that massive quantities of psychotropic drugs reach the poorest sectors of American society. Drugging the Poor provides a unified theoretical framework to assess how all drugs, including tobacco, heroin, alcohol, cocaine, and diverted pharmaceuticals contribute to maintaining social inequality among the wealthier and poorer social classes in American society.

Singer’s analysis rejects conventional approaches that see tobacco or alcohol manufacturers and distributors, on the one hand, and drug cartels and mafias, on the other, as completely different entities. Instead, he shows how legal and illegal “drug corporations” share key features and follow the same economic principles. He also emphasizes that mixing legal and illegal drugs to self-medicate against social discrimination, poverty, and structural violence offers short-term relief, but in the long run, it functions to maintain an unjust and oppressive system.

Drugging the Poor actively challenges the assumption that how things are is how they always have been or how they need to be.
Reactions
“Our national delusions around ‘drugs’ rest on several categories that blur our understanding of the big picture—legal vs. illegal, the doctor’s office vs. the party, supply vs. demand. And in the realm of illegal drugs, we ignore how much production and consumption parallel legal business, including Big Pharm. With our ‘drug’ tunnel vision we miss how the real issue often isn’t the drug at all. Singer’s book critiques this standard rhetoric and takes a fresh look at the chemicals, people, institutions, and ideologies that make up our ‘drug problem.’” — Michael H. Agar, University of Maryland

Drugging the Poor is a timely and fully developed answer to pressing questions about the continued dilemma of drug use in society, offering a clear explanation of why the War on Drugs has failed. Arguing that there is a simultaneous War for Drugs, fought by the tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceutical industries, Singer reveals structural, operational, and cultural similarities between the legal and illegal drug industries.” — Marsha Rosenbaum, San Francisco Office of the Drug Policy Alliance

“Merrill Singer offers a refreshingly bold approach to the complexities of the drug problem—in this country and in the world—by exposing its class character. It is the most probing analysis of the ‘war on drugs’ that I have seen.” — Howard Zinn, Boston University
Table of Contents
1. The Global Dual Drug Industry and Drugging the Poor
Illegal and Legal Drug Use in America / Theoretical Perspective: Critical Medical Anthropology / Drugs as Commodities / Blurry Boundaries between Legal and Illegal / Drugs and the Emergent Global Social Order / Dual Wars: For and Against Drugs / The Health Effects of Psychotropic Drugs

2. The Nature of Licit and Illicit Drug Capitalism
One Economy, Two Sectors / Social Legitimation / Critical Junctures: Where the Twain Meet

3. Big Tobacco: An Aboveground Drug Industry
Birth of the Tobacco Corporation / Seeing like a Legal Drug Corporation / Smoke, Mirrors, and the Tobacco Industry / Secondhand Smoke's Contributions to Illness / Tobacco for the Poor

4. Big Alcohol: An Aboveground Drug Industry
Does Big Alcohol Exist? / Several Big Players / Seeing the World as an Alcohol Corporation / Behind the Myth Making: The Social Costs of Alcohol / Selling Alcohol to the Poor

5. Global Pharmaceuticals: Belowground Features of an Aboveground Industry
A Rich Man's World: The Coming of Big Pharma / Strategies of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry / Overproduction of Pharmaceuticals / Pharmaceutical Street Drugs

6. The Belowground Illicit Drug Industry
Cartels or Corporations? / The Heroin Business / Cocaine: From Cottage Industry to Global Complexity / Methamphetamine / Ecstasy and Club Drugs: Ups and Downs of the Market / Seeing the World as an Illicit Drug Corporation

7. Drugging the Poor
Cannabis and Class / The Social Life of Drugs in the Everyday Life of the Poor / Consumption and the High-Country Blues / Illicit and Licit Drug Mixing / Modulating Moods / The Role of Drugs and the Structuring of Inequality / Social Disparity, Health Inequality, and Drugs

8. The People's War on Drugs
Reflections on Resilience / An Alternative War on Drugs / Fighting Illicit Drug Companies / La Lucha Continua