This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America

I know what you’re all thinking: how can she go from writing about the Fifty Shades trilogy to drugs?  Truth is, I have a diverse interest in books.  Not only that, but when it comes to public policy, my focus is on drug policy and reform.  I find it thoroughly fascinating, which could speak volumes about me, but I prefer to think of it as a problem of the people.  Much like the Fifty Shades trilogy brought BDSM out of the closet, shows like Intervention have brought drug abuse out of the dark and into the public spotlight.  Whether it is a member of the family who secretly smokes or snorts his or her problems away, or towns ravaged by methamphetamine, drug use and abuse affects various facets of life.  As such, people should give drug policy a more thorough look.  And that is what this book sets out to do.

Within the pages of this book we are given the basic history of drug use in America, from the creation of cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines, and what it meant to the burgeoning pharmacy companies, to the present day and the ruling status of Big Pharma in government policy.  Ryan Grim does an excellent job of engaging readers through personal accounts, statistical evidence and some very thorough and surprising conclusions formed from the data presented.  Within the first three pages of the book, Grim comments, “Little tells us more about the state of America than what Americans are doing to get high.”  When I first read this statement, I sought out a highlighter and emblazoned it with a vibrant orange.  This statement, simple and short, encapsulates the very essence of the book.

The country’s love affair with mind-altering substances has been a rocky one, at best.  Always looking to the next best high, the creation of variant chemical compounds has been the leading business for Big Pharma since the early days when advertisements claimed heroin and cocaine  genuine medical cures.  When the country was going through Prohibition, drinking declined considerably as opiate usage steadily rose, because individuals believed alcohol consumption was more negative than smoking or ingesting opiate compounds.  This example provides a vast insight into how America has danced with drug policy throughout the ages.  A more recent example within the pages of this book comes from the drug prevention program D.A.R.E.  Statistical evidence showed that children who went through the program did not in fact benefit from its “Just Say No” slogan, but provided intrigued youth adequate information to experiment with gateway drugs such as marijuana.

These examples are just a few of the mind-blowing informational facts that Grim writes about.  Entertaining and informative, Grim provides a very even-handed, although nowhere near neutral, understanding to drug policy and use in America.  Through his words he can enlighten those in the dark on these topics, and bring a fresh perspective to those experts, in however you wish to define the term.  For anyone who has an interest in drug policy, this is a great introduction into a very tumultuous world.

 

The Fifty Shades Trilogy.

What better way to start out my book review blog than to review what is fast becoming a sweeping phenomenon.  The Fifty Shades Trilogy is by far the most erotic and nauseating series of romance novels that I have read.  It explores the kinky relationship between Christian Grey (from which the title comes) and neophyte to the BDSM world, Ms. Anastasia Steele.  As it plainly states on the back cover, this book is an erotic romance.  It explores the world of sadomasochistic relationships, focusing on dominate and submissive personality types and whether real love and real relationships can come from these beginnings.  I feel like I am giving these books too much credit on being of literary value.  As negative as that sounds, most lonely women are reading this trilogy for one of two reasons: other women are talking or they are simply pent-up sexual beings that need a release, if you get my drift.

The first of the three books (Fifty Shades of Grey) introduces readers to young adult and recent college grad Anastasia Steele.  The opening scene sets up the situation to which she irrevocably ties herself to ultra-buisness man, Mr. Christian Grey.  As a favor to her best friend, Ana agrees to do an interview with the mega-millionaire for the graduation edition of the school newspaper.  From the moment she tumbles head over heels into his office (quite literally) the two are doing the dance of love, in and out of bed.

Book two introduces complications to the bittersweet relationship: Christian’s psychotic ex submissive, an over-powering and over-sexed boss, and internal struggles of our two main characters.  Whenever the circumstances seem on the verge of eminently tearing apart our star-crossed lovers, a crisis arises allowing each character to realize their true feelings for one another, and to admit to true intentions.  Amongst the graphic and frequent depictions of sex (vanilla or otherwise), the relationship between the two main characters lacks any real substance.  It reads like two horny young adults, repeatedly getting their jollies in the guise of true love.

By the end of the third novel we see Ana in a completely new light.  Literally.  She no longer resembles the person we meet in pages 1-20 in book one, but rather she is a completely different person who wears make-up, Louboutin heels, and lace lingerie, all at her husbands behest.  It’s sad to see.  An intelligent, albeit naïve, young woman who has much to experience from life turns into a prolific submissive by succumbing to the physical and mental direction of her over-protective, and frankly abusive, husband.

What concerns me most with this set of novels is that young women and teenagers are reading these depictions of love and sex and many, who may be yet unexperienced, might come away with the idea that this is a real, and good, relationship.  Christian Grey, although handsome and powerful, smart and successful, is cut from the cloth of an abusive individual.  He demands Ana obey him, not just in the playroom (“red room of pain”), but also in her behaviors outside the bed, and he demeans her (at times asking her if she is stupid, calling her childish, etc) when she does not obey him.  Though we are led to believe that Ana has a voice in the relationship (she does NOT sign his contract and does NOT become his submissive, but rather is Christian’s first girlfriend and real relationship), her efforts seem to be wasted.  She still, for all intents and purposes, becomes Christian submissive to his dominant personality (frequently in the novels by giving in and shutting up when she should in fact take a stand).  And sex is the weapon of choice for both Christian and Ana.  They each use their sexuality and it’s effect on the significant other as ways to control situations.  The last scene of the trilogy has Ana succumbing to Christian’s desire for rough and kinky sex by kneeling on the floor awaiting her husbands orders, although we are led to believe this is her showing her love for her husband.

While these novels were erotic, and frankly eye-opening, it’s hard to wrap my head around the message being presented to all of the young readers.  And not even just the young, but those who are still lonely and looking for love.  This is not a great depiction of what to aspire too.  The most it has to offer in terms of real lasting gratification (pun intended) is an introduction and greeting into the closeted world of BDSM.  And, if you are into that thing, more power to you.  A series has come along that has opened the doors for discussion.  But fellas, don’t be Christian Grey.  And ladies, don’t be Anastasia Steele.  Just maybe use their action as a tutorial for “kinky fuckery” if you’re in to that thing.