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Synthetic Panics
The Symbolic Politics of Designer Drugs
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Author(s) :
Philip Jenkins
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Publisher :
New York Univ. Press
America has a long history of drug panics, during which countless social problems have been blamed on the devastating effects of some harmful substance. In the last forty years, such panics have often focused on synthetic or designer drugs, like methamphetamine, PCP, Ecstasy, methcathinone, and rave drugs like ketamine and GHB. Fear of these substances has provided critical justification for the continuing "war on drugs."

Synthetic Panics traces the history of these anti-drug movements, demonstrating that designer chemicals inspire so much fear not because they are uniquely dangerous, but because they heighten deeply rooted public concerns about social and cultural upheaval. Jenkins highlights the role of the mass media in spreading anti-drug hysteria and shows how proponents of the war on drugs use synthetic panics to scapegoat society's "others" and exacerbate racial, class, and intergenerational conflict.

This thoroughly researched account of the rise and fall of drug panics offers a fresh, provocative look at American society, politics, and popular culture in the twentieth century. Synthetic Panics also has important policy implications: it argues forcefully for a fundamental rethinking of our whole approach to the "war on drugs" which is increasingly curtailing our rights and liberties.

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America and Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis.