Review: Ceremonial Chemistry

Ceremonial Chemistry
Ceremonial Chemistry by Thomas Szasz

This is a fantastic overview and criticism of the “drug problem”/ war on drugs. Thomas Szazs expounds an interpretation of what he calls ‘missionary medicine’ as the new permutation of religion in a secular world, a new scientific religion. I.e. encouraged/discouraged drugs are for the most part ceremonially differentiated instead of chemically. Essential to this is that drug prohibition is not only a war against disapproved drugs it is also a war for the approved medico-scientific drugs of the day. Or in cases of drug policy being policed in foreign areas, a war for western ceremonial drugs alcohol and tobacco. The book charts the societal shift of certain substances from panacea (cure-all) to panapathogen (corrupt-all). Concepts of medicine and psychiatry as social control are also discussed. Though released in the 70s much of this book still holds true to the current situation. With the impending legalization of cannabis in Canada, we shall soon see whether Szazs’ ideas play out re: prohibition creating adverse behaviour, and the ‘forbidden fruit effect’.

I highly recommend this book for anybody who has grown up without questioning the drug propaganda that has been fed to us since birth, and anybody who wants to dig deeper into why some substances are forbidden and some not.

5 / 5 

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