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Publisher's Summary

"Morphine," writes Richard J. Miller, "is the most significant chemical substance mankind has ever encountered." So ancient that remains of poppies have been found in Neolithic tombs, it is the most effective drug ever discovered for treating pain. "Whatever advances are made in medicine," Miller adds, "nothing could really be more important than that." And yet, when it comes to mind-altering substances, morphine is only a cc or two in a vast river that flows through human civilization, ranging from LSD to a morning cup of tea.

In Drugged, Miller takes listeners on an eye-opening tour of psychotropic drugs, describing the various kinds, how they were discovered and developed, and how they have played multiple roles in virtually every culture. The vast scope of chemicals that cross the blood-brain barrier boggle the very brain they reach: cannabis and cocaine, antipsychotics and antidepressants, alcohol, amphetamines, and Ecstasy - and much more.

Literate and wide-ranging, Miller weaves together science and history, telling the story of the undercover theft of 20,000 tea plants from China by a British spy, for example; the European discovery of coffee and chocolate; and how James Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous man of letters, first isolated the alkaloid we now know as caffeine.

Miller explains what scientists know - and don't - about the impact of each drug on the brain, down to the details of neurotransmitters and their receptors. He clarifies the differences between morphine and heroin, mescaline and LSD, and other similar substances. Drugged brims with surprises, revealing the fact that antidepressant drugs evolved from the rocket fuel that shot V2 rockets into London during World War II, highlighting the role of hallucinogens in the history of religion, and asking whether Prozac can help depressed cats.

Entertaining and authoritative, Drugged is a truly fascinating book.

©2014 Oxford University Press (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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What listeners say about Drugged: The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A good review; not very competent reader

The book is a fascinating blend of chemistry, biology, and psychology, with some dollops of social history of drugs, and science history.

The reader was problematic. I'm tired of science books being recorded by readers who know how to adopt an authoritative tone, but can't be bothered to find out how even moderately technical words are pronounced. Not the worst I've heard, but it's very disruptive.

15 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting reading but heavy on the biochemistry

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

I enjoyed this audiobook but have a background in the field. The author takes us throughout each of the various classes of mind and mood altering drugs, both prescription and illegal, offering a brief history of each, their uses, effects, efficacy etc. Most, if not all the drugs covered here will be familiar to most readers and there is lots of interesting details, trivia, and factoids. This isn't a book for anyone searching for the right "med" - rather, is more of a history of man's flirtation with and apparent need for, mind altering experiences. I was captivated throughout. My only criticism was that the author tends to delve a little too deep into the biochemistry of each drug which tends to overwhelm the reader at times. As well, I got the sense the title was the publisher's ploy to make this rather academic book more appealing to the lay reader. Still, for anyone with an interest in the history and science behind many of our modern drugs of choice to either treat or self-medicate psychiatric illnesses, this is the book for you.

What does Roger Clark bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

No complaints about the narration. Could have been dry given the subject matter but to the credit of Clark.

16 people found this helpful

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Refreshingly in-depth

This is by far the most scientific audiobook I've found so far. If you're into medicinal chemistry or drug action, this is for you. It can get a bit technical at times, especially when describing chemical structures, which really require a visual. Otherwise, this had a great balance of historical anecdotes and scientific discovery. There were a few mispronunciations here or there but the narration was good overall and fit the context of the book

7 people found this helpful

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Incomprehensible...

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would recommend this book to someone with a strong background in the sciences. A layer person (like me) will quickly become frustrated by the dense technical language.

Were the concepts of this book easy to follow, or were they too technical?

Waaaay too technical.

6 people found this helpful

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Large amounts of information- well presented

Overall I really enjoyed this and learned a good bit. For those interested in neuroscience / psychiatry this is a very up to date text. There are great parts, interesting stories with history of drug development- but the total can be disjointed.

4 people found this helpful

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Heavy and technical

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Anyone with a background in biology or a lot of knowledge in neurochemistry would get far more out of this book than a layman, which I am.

Any additional comments?

The author used the term "however" so many painful times I feel my blood pressure rise when I hear it now.

6 people found this helpful

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A fascinating survey of science and history

Fascinating and dry in equal measures, be prepared for engrossing storytelling mixed with a healthy dose of textbook-dense chemistry and the biological implications. Definitely enjoyed it, but those looking for a narrative journey should be prepared for the heavy lectures interspersed within.

2 people found this helpful

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Good book

Would you consider the audio edition of Drugged: The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs to be better than the print version?

No I found certain aspects of the audio difficult

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

I enjoyed the book it was informative and well researched, and it was generally well read. Unfortunately the English accent with Americanisms eg pronunciation of for example, beta, due, new and many other words made it distracting for me. There was mispronunciation of many medical terms, which could easily have been avoided, and which as a medical professional I found quite distracting and reduced credibility.

4 people found this helpful

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Buy the actual book, not the audiobook

Terrible pronunciation throughout, would have been a really book book otherwise. Actually read the thing.

1 person found this helpful

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interesting perspective

In this book, various illness and the drugs used to treat them are examined through scopes of the very large (personal relationships and societal attitudes) and the very small (deliciously awesome biochemistry). IMO, the section on schizophrenia was the best part of the book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Collyermum
  • 06-01-16

Too technical, doesn't work as an audiobook

This book is unfortunately too technical to follow in audiobook format. Many, many sentences contain long chemical names. I have a degree in chemistry and I enjoy neurology etc audiobooks but I found this just to heavy to follow as an audiobook, with too much about chemical formuations and not enough "story" or general information, anecdotes etc to hold my interest.

The narrator sounds like a cross between Tom Baker and Brian Blessed and does a pretty good job considering the material he is reading.

Sorry, I can't recommend this, even as an avid scientist.

3 people found this helpful

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  • D
  • 09-13-15

Worth a listen if you have a special interest

I enjoyed the book, very thorough and comprehensive look at psychotropic and mood altering drugs (illegal and prescribed). Annoyingly, the narrator mispronounces a lot of the scientific terminology which can be distracting, but the content of the book is rigorous and solid. I enjoyed the occasional anecdotes that related to certain drugs, as well as the historical context of their development and popular reception. You have to be paying attention to pick up the science but it is explained well.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-06-21

Overall, hard work.

The book itself, for me doesn't really work. It comes access almost as a disparate collection of essays on vaguely connected threads woven together by meandering and almost randomly selected interludes only barely along the lines of the current topic.
Really almost any 'chapter ' could be substituted for another without upsetting the cadence or direction of the book. The author starts the chapter with the heavy going, uphill drudgery of science which usually I really enjoy in other books but doesn't really even try to make it interesting. It seems he's bored of it himself and just wants you to endure it because it has to be dealt with on the way to the 'fun' part. To be fair some of these bits are quite entertaining but equally some are a little more weird and some cling to the topic by the most gossamer of threads.
Some of my problems with this book may be me. The style may not be my cup of tea. It may be the style doesn't quite 'cross the pond' . Or maybe, I just don't get it.
The above I can forgive, take on the chin or whatever.
However, I cannot forgive the narrator.
I have never listened to an audio book ( I listen to a lot) and been so put off by the narration before!
It's like he's playing a character which is basically channelling Richard Burton with a sprinkling of Sean Connery and Brian Blessed playing a WW2 British submarine commander at the Old Vic for the RSC for an invited audience of voice coaches and old luvvies.
His almost wilful misonunciation of words is terrible. Including various pronunciations of, ironically "various". Weird mispronounced common words such as 'parents' and 'water'. And woe betide any poor word with a 'T' in the middle, only to be substituted for soft 'D's! Like "ninedeen ninedees", " saduraded fads" and "fidded righd in, in the ninedeen eighdees". Honestly it's very Tony Blackburn meets Smashy and Nicey ( for any Brits). Also as we're on British comedy, I'm sure that the whole vocal performance of this book was the basis for Matt Berry's hilarious 'Toast of London '. Awful.

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  • Dagon
  • 01-26-20

Can Be A Bit Technical But Otherwise Faultless

This book really is a fascinating listen from start to finish. Although it covers the alkaloids (morphine etc - anything which is derived from an organic source) as its mainstay, towards the end it did start on drugs and compounds which are purely synthetic. This is where it became quite technical, which is by no means a criticism, it is just not what I was expecting certainly do not let this put you off. If you like books which are harder to stop than start, then this is your book.

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  • Stewart Gibson
  • 07-08-18

Looking for this book for decades

After my listen,I ordered the hard copy. Its true that biochemistry does not easily translate to the spoken word. But this is minimal. The book is a most understandable explanation of the origins of modern psychotropic drugs . As a practicing physician, I can only wish that this be made recommended reading for medical professionals. But it is not dry and technical. It encompasses the lives and times of the persons behind the discoveries. Whatever deficiencies which must accompany such an ambitious undertaking, the value of the research and technical insight is nothing short of brilliant. If the origin and discovery of drugs is your interest, then this book is a six out of five.

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  • Sean Yem
  • 12-08-15

Absolutely Brilliant Book...

I have never enjoyed a book so much. Even topic and chapter was filled with so much information and being a person who loves the subject as well of being a science minded person I just found I was totally absorbed. I love how the book covered all the drugs including tea coffee and chocolate. I didn't expect them to be in here. With personal links to a fare few of the subject in this book I could really relate to the material and understand each of the situations. I thought the book flowed brilliantly and the narration was perfect. I wish I could find another book on this topic to listen to.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-25-20

this is just what i think lol

love this book, some of it doesn't translate well into audiobook but even then, listening to chemical structure names intermittently is a surreal and pretty way of humbling yourself.
This book feels like a wise old person who has deity like knowledge of human experience, culture, and history however only told through the lense of psychoactive chemicals and the tales surrounding them.
the overall narrative is only felt via token amounts of bias/ personal opinion.
favorite book i've read so far
- pete's son :)