Understanding Drug Use and Abuse: A Global Perspective is an ambitious text that covers a lot of pertinent issues ranging from the historical development of drug policy to the physiology of drug use. It is one of a few books to focus on drugs from a global perspective drawing on examples from around the world instead of concentrating solely on the United Kingdom and /or the United States (although, there remains a heavy reliance on the United States in many of the chapters). As the title suggests, the book focuses on drugs as a global issue that requires a global solution. For ease of use, the book is split into four sections. Section 1 introduces a number of the ‘usual suspects’ found in most drug-related texts, including a chapter on the prevalence of drug use and one on prohibition, alongside a more unusual chapter on social marketing. Section 2 focuses on the theoretical perspectives used to explain drug use and addiction. Section 3 outlines global responses including decriminalization and prevention, while Section 4 provides some concluding recommendations and afterthoughts. The final chapter outlines the lack of evidence underpinning the efficacy of drug supply policies and how supply reduction efforts are failing across the board; no country has succeeded in stopping the supply of drugs. The final chapter also considers how harm reduction initiatives implemented earlier on in the supply chain might undermine the multibillion-dollar drug market, which is an interesting addition. The overall premise of the book is that prohibition is not working and this is the consensus of governments around the world. While not much is new in this easily accessible and concise text, it does cover a number of interesting topics not routinely found in most books on drugs and drug-related issues, making it an important addition to the discipline. Throughout the book the authors draw on international research to discuss the issues relating to drug use and its prevention and treatment in a number of different countries, including Australia, China, New Zealand, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Although its global perspective is what makes it different to other books in this area, it also contributes to some of its criticisms. The global focus means the book covers a lot of ground and a lot of different topics albeit fleetingly. This often results in a vague analysis that is unhelpful, particularly to students. For example, instead of writing ‘in some cultures alcohol use is strictly forbidden, while in others almost everyone, including children, use it regularly’ (p. 15), surely the authors should tell the reader which cultures are being referred to in both instances. Another example of this ambiguity is illustrated in Chapter 10, where the text states that in a number of countries sex work has been legalized, although the reader is never told which countries are being referred to in the text. Needle exchanges are also briefly explained in this chapter, but again no detailed information or specifics are provided that pertain to their efficacy or inform the reader in which countries needle exchanges do and do not operate. If this is a book about global drug use and the importance of understanding drug use, drug prevention and drug treatment in different cultures, countries and contexts, then surely it is imperative to tell the reader which cultures, countries and contexts are being referred to in the text? Thus, despite purporting to offer a global perspective on drug use and abuse, this element of the book could have been developed further and more specific examples provided and discussed, particularly in relation to global capitalism and its subsequent culture (e.g. competitive individualism and consumerism), which is not mentioned. From a student’s perspective, the lack of specificity means topics are discussed so fleetingly there is insufficient explanation and detail provided, particularly if students are expected to answer the review questions at the end of each chapter. For example, the section on female drug users is five and a half lines long while the section on gateway drugs is only ten lines long, and although both sections are tied in with other sections, more time should have been spent discussing each topic. Maybe such specificity was beyond the remit of this book, but the reader is often left wondering why the topic was included in the first place if it was not important enough to discuss it in any detail. Despite this criticism, Understanding Drug Use and Abuse is definitely a student text that explains many of the taken-for-granted assumptions often evident in other books on drugs; the chapter overview, review questions and lists of further reading reinforce this point. What the book does do is provide students with an array of interesting and disparate information that has been amalgamated into one easily accessible text that, despite its flaws, provides an international perspective on drug use and its solutions. The book is well written and is a good text for both students and academics alike. The chapter on old and new probation that covers the history of substances, colonialism, religion and the temperance movement is one of the better chapters in terms of detail, information and coherence. Also, the chapter on physiological perspectives simplifies a complicated subject into an accessible and understandable format that is easy for students to read and comprehend. Section 2 is also useful in the sense that it includes chapters on most of the theories explaining drug use and addiction taught to students across disciplines (sociology, criminology and psychology), making it one of the few books with a section dedicated to theory and thus a useful teaching resource, particularly for undergraduate drug-focused modules. © The Author(s) 2016, 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (ISTD). All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The British Journal of Criminology – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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