Quick Fixes

Quick Fixes:Drugs in America from Prohibition to the 21st Century Binge

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Americans are in the midst of a world-historic drug binge.

This is your nation's history on drugs

Americans are stumbling through a world-historic drug binge. Opiates, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, marijuana, antidepressants, antipsychotics—across the board, consumption has shot up in the twenty-first century. At the same time, the United States is home to the largest prison system in the world, justified in part by a now zombified “war” on drugs. How did we get here?

Quick Fixes blows away the pharmacological fog to take a sober look at how drugs have shaped American society. Though particularly acute in recent decades, the contradiction between America’s passionate love for and intense hatred of these sub - stances has been one of its defining characteristics for over a century. Through nine chapters, each devoted to the modern history of a drug or class of drugs, Fong examines Americans’ fraught relationship with psychoactive substances. As society changes, it produces different forms of stress, isolation, and alienation. These changes, in turn, affect the development and spread of medications and narcotics among the populace.

By laying out the histories, functions, and experiences of our chemical com - forts, the hope is to help answer that ever-perplexing question: what does it mean to be an American?


  • Provocative, methodical, and righteously witty, Quick Fixes provides the fullest articulation I’ve seen of an argument often implied but rarely fleshed out: that ‘drug problems’ such as addiction and brutal drug wars are actually about capitalism rather than drugs. Under capitalism, Fong argues, drugs have been used to extract more labor from workers, to profit from workers’ isolation and need for relief, and to police marginalized so-called 'surplus' populations. As a result both drug use and drug policing have become harmful compulsions. And because these compulsions are caused by capitalism, not drugs, we cannot free ourselves simply by ending the drug war.

    David Herzberg, author of White Market Drugs
  • Drugs are deeply integrated into American capitalism, not just American culture. 'Profit wins in the end,' as Ben Fong says, but his clear, thoughtful, and troubling account improves the odds of the fight for better, longer lives.

    Craig Calhoun, coauthor of Degenerations of Democracy
  • With drug use surging in the US, Ben Fong's fascinating look into America’s relationship with psychoactive substances is unprecedented both in rigor and scope. It’s a history you’ve never read before, and a desperately needed examination of where we are, how we got here, and why exactly we’re all so blitzed.

    Amber A'Lee Frost, Chapo Trap House