cover image Shooting Up: A Short History of Drugs and War

Shooting Up: A Short History of Drugs and War

Lukasz Kamienski. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (408p) ISBN 978-0-19-026347-8

"The use of drugs%E2%80%94more or less powerful, more or less organic%E2%80%94has been intrinsic to warfare," writes Kamienski, a political scientist at Poland's Jagiellonian University, in this fascinating examination of how warfare and intoxicants are inexorably intertwined. Kamienski illustrates the often vital role drugs have played in virtually every conflict since the ancient Greeks used opium prior to going into battle. Drugs and alcohol, he asserts, have real, practical value in terms of warfare. Drinking and drugging rituals help soldiers bond before and after engagements, gain confidence before combat, heal wounds and alleviate pain during and after the fighting, and forget about the horrors of war after combat ceases (and in some cases, medicate themselves long after they came home). Readers may be familiar with some topics, such as morphine's presence in the Civil War, marijuana and heroin in Vietnam, and Hitler's use of a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals, but they might be surprised to learn how some governments (including the U.S.) have incorporated pharmaceuticals into their war efforts by drugging their adversaries. It's an impressive and accessible deep dive into the topic, and though Kamienski doesn't spend much time examining the ramifications of this phenomenon in the post%E2%80%93Vietnam War era , it makes for a bracing and fascinating study. (Feb.)