High: Drugs, Desire, and a Nation of Users

Americans love to indulge in psychoactive substances to enhance or manage their moods: from caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine to energy drinks, pharmaceuticals, and street drugs. For users in a culture of self-medication and pleasure, a “drug-free America” seems to be a fantasyland that most of us do not want to inhabit.

High: Drugs, Desire, and a Nation of Users asks a fundamental question about drug policy and social norms in the United States: Why do we endorse the use of some drugs while criminalizing the use of others? This illogical separation shapes public policy, the justice system, research, social services, and healthcare in ways that affect all Americans. In over 45 years of the drug war, drug use remains relatively unchanged despite billions of dollars spent annually on interdiction and research. The US has yet to develop an informed understanding about drugs, users, and desire—a knowledge deficit that perpetuates failing policies and limits research and health care practices.

This book addresses ideological divisions in research, policy, and social norms to fill in a bigger picture of US use practices. It includes user narratives that express a wide variety of experiences with drug use and speaks to the silencing effects of both criminalization and medicalization.

By challenging what we think we know about drugs and users, High: Drugs, Desire, and a Nation of Users, signals the next wave of drug reform in the US. Equitable policy and practice starts with recognition of a full spectrum of drug use practices.


University of Washington Press