WE TAKE DRUGS FOR TWO MAIN REASONS; EITHER TO RESTORE ourselves to the condition we regard as normalto cure infections, and to take away pain; or to release us from normalityto enable us to feel more lively, or more relaxed; to alter our mood, or our perceptions. It is with this second category (of drug use, not of drugs; the drugs themselves may be the same) that I am concerned. For some reason, there is no generally accepted colloquial description. 'Narcotic' is quite familiar, but it has acquired a pejorative tinge, and in any case it should properly be used only about a drug used to induce drowsiness or stupor. For a while 'dope' did service, but by the time Tom Lehrer was singing about the old dope peddler spreading joy wherever he went, it had begun to slip out of favour, and is now more commonly used to describe what is taken by athletes to improve their form, or given to racehorses to upset the odds. I have stuck simply to the term 'drugs'.
I have used words like 'addiction' in their colloquial rather than their more specialised clinical sense; and I have tried to avoid the jargon of the pharmacologists, except when quoting it. Their term for the mood-altering drugs, 'psychotropic', has established itself; but they have yet to agree on how best to describe a drug used to alter perception. The term most often employed, 'hallucinogen', is both ugly and misleading, as the experiences are not necessarily hallucinatory; but the commonest alternative, 'psychotomimetic', is even uglier and more misleading, as the experiences do not often resemble psychosis. 'Phantastica', which Louis Lewin tried to popularise, has not caught on; nor, mercifully, have 'psychotogenic' or 'psycholitic'; and Humphrey Osmond's 'psychedelic' has shifted its meaning, in popular usage. I have preferred 'vision-inducing'.
There is another category of drugs which I had intended to include; aphrodisiacs. I found, though, that virtually all the drugs known to man, not to mention all sorts of foodstuffs and drinks which are not ordinarily regarded as drugs, have had the reputation at one time or another of stimulating sexual appetite, or improving sexual performance. As the same drugs, at other times, have often had the reputation of diminishing desire, and spoiling performance, it is doubtful whether the category of aphrodisiac can be accepted, except subjectively.
I have also dealt only in passing with the economic consequences of drug use. For centuries, a vast acreage has been given over to growing the plants which provide the raw material of drugs. Huge sums have been spent on processing, distributing and retailing the finished products, and on providing the accessories, from public houses to hubble-bubbles. States have extracted immense revenues from drug duties and used them to pay for everything from social services to guided missiles. Obviously the influence of drugs on the world's economy has been incalculable; but to deal adequately with this aspect of the subject would require another, and a very different, book.
The reasons for some other omissions will be found in the section on sources. But there is also one inclusion, which I find sometimes causes surprise. Alcohol is clearly a drug; the drug, of our civilisation and many before. But it has also long been consumed, often primarily, as a beverage. I have dealt with attitudes to drink, and legislation designed to control drinking, only when they have been inspired by fears of its effects when used as a drug.