Matters Of Substance

Book Review by Willard Manus

The tagline of MATTERS OF SUBSTANCE by Griffith Edwards (Picador) tells the story: Drugs--And Why Everyone's a User. Even if most people don't use illegal substances such as marijuana, speed or heroin, we all consume huge amounts of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, pain-killers and sleeping pills. Edwards, a British psychiatrist and editor of the journal Addiction, deals in a calm, lucid way with drug use around the world. In addition to analyzing the chemical makeup of drugs and describing how they work on human beings, he deals with such issues as drug rehab, "the war on drugs" (an utter failure), and the connection between drug use and world poverty.

His conclusion: "Dealing with drugs is partly about dealing with drugs direct, plain and simple, and it is about limiting access. It is also about dealing with much else besides drugs. It must be about our choice of value systems, the wide world outside the window, the quality of the world seen with the inner eye, and what life can offer that is as good as, or better than, intoxication."