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Books, Journals, New Media
September 24, 2003

Drug Policy

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(12):1647-1648. doi:10.1001/jama.290.12.1647

This new drug policy book, by David Musto and Pamela Korsmeyer, presents a careful chronological description of the events and personalities that shaped federal drug policy from 1963 to 1981. Even beyond the drug policy subject matter, this work is a case study in governmental bureaucratic complexities and conflicts that shape policy and, as such, a reference source for students of political science.

The book excels in its description of the infighting for policy dominance among prevention, treatment, and enforcement advocates and the concurrent struggles among federal agencies, notably Health Education and Welfare, the Justice Department, and the Treasury Department. Particularly informative sections describe the shifting support for a White House drug policy office, the emergence of methadone maintenance treatment, the influence of the Vietnam War on drug policy and, finally, the manipulation of the number of estimated addicts (at best, an imperfect measure) for political advantage. While the focus is on the inner workings of the executive branch, not surprising since the authors had access to a unique collection of 5000 pages of White House documents, there is good tracking of the administration's interaction with Congressional committees.

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