by Patrick Appel

Laura Miller reviews Ryan Grim's book:

One of the theses of his new book, "This is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America" -- a cornucopia of unconventional wisdom about our relationship to mind-altering substances -- is that the popularity of drugs waxes and wanes according to a complex sum of factors. One of those factors is the "perceived risk" of using a particular chemical, which also fluctuates. There's a tendency to idealize new drugs, as the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal did with a recently isolated narcotic in 1900. "There's no danger of acquiring a habit," it assured its readers about the drug that had just emerged from the labs of the aspirin manufacturer, Bayer. They named it heroin.Even when we ought to know better, we don't. "It takes about seven years," Grim writes, "for folks to realize what's wrong with any given drug. It slips away, only to return again as if it were new."

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