Background Briefings

For a period of four years from 15th November 2004, I wrote a series of Background Briefings—short educational pieces on a variety of issues and themes relating to drugs, alcohol, addiction, recovery and treatment—for Drink and Drugs News (DDN), the leading UK magazine focused on drug and alcohol treatment.

Drink and Drugs News was developed and run by Claire Brown and Ian Ralph, and was so urgently required at the time of its launch. Claire and Ian, and their team, have done a remarkable job with Drink and Drugs News over the years, and the magazine is highly appreciated by the field. Today, it still remains a magazine of the highest quality.

My Background Briefings were also posted on the various Wired In websites at the time, and were eventually archived on the internet archive Wayback Machine. Here are links to 26 of 72 Briefings; each contains a link to an original pdf. I’ll post more later. Links to the Briefings are also available via the Articles section of the website.]

Drugs in Society
On the one hand, we tell our young people not to take psychoactive drugs and to keep away from people who are selling drugs. On the other hand, doctors and others are constantly encouraging us to take psychoactive drugs produced by the pharmaceutical industry—some of which are addictive—for a variety of conditions.

Psychoactive Drugs and the Drug Problem
Introduces psychoactive drugs and describes a simple classification of drug type based on their major mode of impact on the mind. The multitude of factors that influence the way that a drug can affect a person, and ultimately can contribute to a drug problem are influenced.

Alcohol Dependence
Looks at the cluster of seven elements that make up the template for which the degree of alcohol dependence is judged.

Drug, Set and Setting
The effects that a drug has on a person are not just dependent on the drug itself, but also on factors related to the person (the set) and the physical and social setting.

Drug Choices and the Loss of Choice
Various factors contribute to the initiation and early use of drugs and alcohol. As time passes, other factors also influence whether substance use continues. The vast majority of people who use drugs or alcohol do so without any problems. However, long-term drug or alcohol use can lead to addiction in a significant minority.

Drugs, Chemicals, the Brain and Behaviour
How psychoactive drugs influence chemical and electrical events in the brain, and how these changes may relate to their effects on behaviour.

Psychoactive Drugs: From Absorption to Elimination
Factors that can influence indirectly the way that psychoactive drugs impact on the brain and influence behaviour. Describes examples of individual differences in drug response that can arise from these factors.

Historical Perspective: Opium, Morphine and Opiates (Part 1)
Traces the history of the opiates, from use in Summarian and Assyrian civilisations through to the Opium wars between China and Britain and the cultural impact of opium smoking by Chinese in the Californian gold fields.

Historical Perspective: Opium, Morphine and Opiates (Part 2)
Continues a brief history of the opiates, which includes describing the different responses of the United States and Britain to opiate problems in the earlier parts of the 19th century.

Historical Perspective: Opium, Morphine and Opiates (Part 3)
Concluding a brief history of the opiates by looking at the massive increase in heroin use that occurred in America and the UK during the later parts of the 20th century.

Historical Perspectives: Cocaine
Traces the history of cocaine, linking the Incas, Freud, Thomas Edison, Sherlock Holmes and Coca Cola.

The Regulation and Control of Drugs, Part 1
Describes factors that have influenced the development of laws regulating recreational drug use, in particular influential happenings in America.

The Regulation and Control of Drugs, Part 2
Continues to look at the development of laws regulating recreational drug use, in particular in America, which has influenced world drug policy so strongly.

Should Recreational Drug Use Be Criminalised? (Part 1)
Explores the regulation and control of drugs by looking at philosopher Douglas Husak’s views on the justice of US drug laws.

Should Recreational Drug Use Be Criminalised? (Part 2)
Continues to look at Douglas Husak’s arguments about prohibition and its consequences.

The Drug Experience: Cocaine, Part 1
Exploring the dynamic world of heavy cocaine use as revealed in a provocative, high-quality study by Dan Waldorf and colleagues. This research, conducted in the US in the 1980s, challenged many of the prevailing myths about cocaine.

The Drug Experience: Cocaine, Part 2
While cocaine is portrayed as having a very high addiction potential, the majority of people who use the drug do not have a problem. Research by Dan Waldorf and colleagues reveals a number of social and social psychological factors that influence how a person uses a drug.

The Drug Experience: Cocaine, Part 3
Dan Waldorf and colleagues were ‘pleasantly surprised’ by the relative ease with which so many cocaine users managed to quit. Their research emphasises the importance of one’s personal and social identity in influencing drug use.