I had high hopes (pun intended) for the History of Science 140v: “The Historical and Cultural Lives of Drugs in the U.S.” lecture I was sitting in on. Would we discuss the pros and cons of doing various drugs? Would we learn that Ben Franklin secretly had a coke problem? Would there be free weed? The possibilities were endless.
10:46 a.m. I chug a large, light roast coffee before the lecture to get some semblance of a buzz (did you know that light roast actually has more caffeine than dark roast?).
11:05 a.m. I walk into Geological Lecture Hall and am crestfallen to learn that today’s lecture won’t even mention, say, how to cook meth, but will instead focus entirely on the pharmaceutical industry and U.S. drug policy. Actual social problems? This isn’t what I signed up for.
11:07 a.m. The instructor, Nathan Greenslit, begins to speak in a lucid, totally non-intoxicated voice about the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on doctors since 1950. My spirits drop even lower. This isn’t flashy or sexy; in fact, it sounds suspiciously like a history class—Greenslit even drops an obligatory “heteronormative” about five minutes in. I begin to bunker down for an hour of what is sure to be a boring, thoroughly informative and educational lecture.
11:22 a.m. I snap out of my incipient coma when Greenslit brings in the expert opinion of comedian and noted drug policy scholar Chris Rock. A clip begins playing on the screen at the front of the lecture hall: “One thing I don’t like about America is we got real bad drug policy...the government always says drugs are illegal because they’re bad for you and we’re trying to protect society, but the government don’t give a FUCK about your safety! They sell guns at WALMART! They don’t give a FUCK about YOU! Shit.”
Now we’re talking.
“…The government, they don’t want you to use YOUR drugs, they want you to use THEIR drugs. So every night on TV, you see a weird-ass drug commercial trying to get you hooked on some LEGAL SHIT…the reason coke and weed are illegal in America, is because the best coke and weed ain’t made in America!”
Greenslit comments on Rock’s thesis: “So, in the social study of science there’s actually a technical term to describe what Chris Rock is talking about…” Well, I kind of zone out here.
When I tune back in, Greenslit is discussing the misleading rhetoric and questionable science that drug companies use to sell medication, as well as the philosophical distinction between drugs that “enhance” health and those that “restore” health—all of which must be very interesting, since almost half the students seem to be paying attention instead of browsing Facebook.
11:55 a.m. Finally Greenslit gives me some of the real-world knowledge I’ve come for: “…ecstasy, which is still illegal, but which can be obtained…you know…at parties, wherever.” I’ll be going to some parties this weekend to verify this information.
Stay tuned for my follow-up article “Obtaining Ecstasy, You Know, At Parties, Wherever” next week.