Something Dangerous: Emergent and Changing Illicit Drug Use and Community Health by Merrill  Singer
274 pages, $30.95 list
eBook availability
Something Dangerous
Emergent and Changing Illicit Drug Use and Community Health
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

This research-based, theory-driven ethnographic account of the changing underground world of drug use and associated health effects covers the essential ground in a succinct, authoritative fashion. After a thorough outline of the nature and history of drug use dynamics, the author assesses the role of youth in new drug use practices, the impact of illicit drug distribution and the war on drugs, and the public health risks of trends in drug use behavior. Additionally, it considers mechanisms for effective public health response to emergent health risks associated with changing drug use patterns.

Because Singer carefully explains all technical terms, uses clarifying examples, and avoids jargon, readers will walk away from this volume with a deeper grasp of this social problem; with appreciation for how change figures into drug use practices; and with knowledge of key social, cultural, political-economic, criminal justice, and health factors. Ideal as a text in the undergraduate classroom, its targeted focus and careful exploration of new concepts and theories also make it appealing for use at more advanced levels.
“Well-written, concise, superbly argued, and easy to follow. . . .” — Judith Noemi Freidenberg, University of Maryland

“Congratulations on publishing a book that informs the students with cogently presented facts and takes a morally attractive stance on the issues underlying these facts.” — John Bryan Page, University of Miami

“. . . a comprehensive and timely book. This work makes a significant contribution to an understudied area in the field of drug abuse: understanding the importance of change and transformation in the consumption of illicit substances. As a solid presentation of the historical and modern problems of illicit drug use in America, students and researcher will learn much from this work.” — Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“This far-reaching, in-depth introduction to the world of illicit drug use from an anthropologist with a long history of work in this area is a welcome and needed introduction to the field of substance use/abuse from an anthropological perspective. Dr. Singer’s prose is clear yet not oversimplified for a wide array of audiences—including students and professionals from social work, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, as well as anthropology. Its main strengths lie in the author’s ability to debunk common (mis)understandings of drug use by presenting the problem and practice of illicit drug use from a broad historical and critical perspective, linking complex political, social, and economic realities to actual communities and the lives of individuals.” — Janie Simmons, National Development and Research Institute

“A thorough synthesis of the past and present story of drugs in American society. In one concise package, Singer lays out the key social, cultural, economic, and political issues vis-à-vis substance abuse in the United States while situating the country’s drug policies in the global political economy.” — Alisse Waterston, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

“An excellent, well-written book on an important topic.” —Peter J. Brown, Emory University
Table of Contents
The Hispanic Health Council / The Role of the Social Science of Health / Organization of the Book

1. Assessing Emergent and Changing Drug Use Practices
The Importance of Understanding Drug Use Dynamics / A Typology of Drug Use Dynamics / Emergent Drug Trends, Emergent Health Risk / Engines of Change: Explanatory Models of Drug Use / The Critical Medical Anthropology (CMA) Approach / Conclusion

2. The Colonial Era to Drug Criminalization
Forgotten Drug Histories / Drug Voyages: Columbus and the Other Conquerors / First Waves: The Impact of Tobacco on Europe and the New World / The Other Colonial Drugs / Explanatory Factors in the Age of Drug Exploration / Conclusion

3. The Era of Drug Criminalization to the 1960s
Criminalizing Drug Use and the Rise of the Underground Drug Scene / In the Shadow of Criminalization / Paint It Black: 1940–1959 / Conclusion

4. The ’60s Drug Transition to the Time of AIDS
The Rising Numbers of Drug Users / The Middle-Class Drug Counterculture / New Drugs, New Visions / From the Counterculture to the Rise of AIDS / Understanding Evolutionary Aspects of Drug Use Dynamics / Conclusion

5. The Role of Youth in New Drug Use Practices
Identifiable Patterns of Youth Drug Use / Coming of Age / Drug Use Innovation and Diffusion / The Functions of Social Networks / Trends in Youthful Drug Use / Conclusion

6. Club Drugs and Beyond
The Club Drugs / Drugs, Sex, and Predation / New Diseases, New Drugs / Old Drugs, New Twists / Conclusion

7. Dealers on the Street: The Impact of Drug Marketing
Players and Practices / Social Relations among Adult Drug Users / The Impact of World War II on Drug Production / The Drug Business / Conclusion

8. The War on Drugs
Deconstructing the War on Drugs / The War Goes On, and On / Costs and Benefits / A Health Perspective Strategy / Conclusion

9. Health Consequences of Changing Drug Use Patterns
The Spread of HIV/AIDS / Other Risks Associated with Drug Use / Limiting Risk / Syndemics / Conclusion

10. Emergent Drug-Related Risk and Public Health Responses
Fear: An Unauthentic Response / Thinking about Trends / Studying Change: Methods for Monitoring Emergent Drug-related Risk / Rapid Assessment and Monitoring / Ethnography as a Monitoring Method / Multiyear Monitoring / Conclusion