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Title: Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered
Author: Lester Grinspoon & James Bakalar
Source: Review by JF

After nearly 20 years, Grinspoon and Bakalar's Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered remains a valuable reference work on the subject of entheogenic drugs. After too long a period out of print, it has been republished by the Lindesmith Center, the first in a series of reprints of classic works on drug policy for which I, for one, have high hopes. It is complemented, but not overshadowed, by more recent works by Ott and others. This is due largely to the careful and thorough job done by its authors on the original, 1979 edition. It is also due, unfortunately, to a repressive legal climate that has prevented a great deal of valuable research from being pursued during the intervening years: After so long, a work like this should be in need of revision. That it is not is truly a sad commentary on the current state of U.S. drug policy. In any case, the only significant omission is MDMA, which became of interest only after publication of the original edition.

Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered offers good coverage of all the main areas of interest in the field of entheogenic drugs, organized by subject matter rather than by drug. The sections on history especially benefit from unified coverage and an overall perspective that the Pharmacotheon, for example, cannot offer with its emphasis on families of compounds. The most valuable aspect of Grinspoon's and Bakalar's work, however, is the emphasis on the medical and psychiatric aspects of drug use, as befits their professional training. The authors offer a broad, well-selected survey of the entheogenic drug literature as it relates to such diverse topics as subjective effects, treatment of alcoholism, therapy for the dying, and mystical experiences, all approached from a critical but compassionate scientific perspective. And unlike some who would minimize or disregard potential adverse effects -- something no less dangerous than those who would equate use with abuse -- Grinspoon and Bakalar devote an entire, excellent chapter to the subject.

So far, this work has aged very well and is one I can highly recommend as a reference text. I can only hope that one day it will merit a thorough revision and a substantial increase in size. For now, it's excellent psychiatric perspective is something no student of entheogenic drugs should ignore.


    Preface to the 1997 Edition
    Authors' Preface to the Original Edition
    Introduction to the 1997 Edition
    Introduction to the Original Edition
  1. The Major Psychedelic Drugs: Sources and Effects
  2. Psychedelic Plants in Preindustrial Society
  3. Psychedelic Drugs in the Twentieth Century
  4. The Nature of the Psychedelic Experience
  5. Adverse Effects and Their Treatment
  6. Therapeutic Uses
  7. Psychedelic Drugs and the Human Mind
  8. The Future of Psychedelic Drug Use and Research
    Appendix: The Legal Status of Psychedelic Drugs
    Bibliography to the 1997 Authors' Introduction
    Annotated Bibliography
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