Gender and critical drug studies: An introduction.  With Nancy Campbell, a collection of essays that introduces and advocates for incorporating gender into drug and drug-war scholarship.

Stuck in traffic? Conflicting regimes of global pharmaceutical governance.  With Jeremy Greene, a book chapter for a proposed volume edited by Daniel Weimer and Matthew R. Pembleton on U.S. foreign relations and the "new drug history."

White Opioids. For a volume on race and addiction pharmaceuticals co-written by Julie Netherland and Helena Hansen, a chapter providing historical context.

The pharmaceutical industry and mental health.  With Mat Savelli and Dorian Deshauer, a book chapter for an introductory textbook on mental health to be edited by Mat Savelli and colleagues for Oxford University Press.

Racial segregation in Buffalo, NY.  With film-maker Brian Milbrand and Grace Andriette of Neighborhood Legal Services & the Erie County Fair Housing Partnership, research, public events, and a trilogy of documentary films on the history of racial segregation in housing, education, health care, and criminal justice in Buffalo. Currently working on second film (education) with assistance of Community Scholar Fellowship from UB's Civic Engagement & Public Policy. See the first film "This Doesn't Happen Here."
I am a U.S. cultural historian specializing in the history of medicine, with a particular interest in how encounters with health and illness have been transformed in the 20th century's consumer culture. My work explores these issues in the context of modern prescription pharmaceuticals, especially sedatives, stimulants, and painkillers.  Among other places, this work has appeared in American Quarterly, American Journal of Public Health, The Atlantic Monthly Online, and in a book, Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac (Johns Hopkins, 2009).  I am currently working on a history of prescription drug abuse in the 20th century.
Happy Pills in America is a cultural history of modern psychiatric drugs framed around the stories of Miltown, Valium, and Prozac--three of the best known and most widely used medicines in the postwar era.  Beginning with the emergence of a medical marketplace for psychoactive drugs in the postwar consumer culture, Happy Pills traces how "happy pills" became embroiled in Cold War gender battles and the explosive politics of the "war against drugs"--and how feminists brought the two issues together in a dramatic campaign against Valium addiction in the 1970s. A final chapter examines how Prozac's boosters revived faith in wonder drugs by successfully joining consumerism and biological psychiatry to conjure visions of unbounded psychological free choice.
David Herzberg
Associate Professor
History Department
546 Park Hall, North Campus
University at Buffalo (SUNY)

  • National Library of Medicine / NIH, Grant for Scholarly Works in Biomedicine and Health (G13), 2015-2018
  • "Entitled to Addiction?  Pharmaceuticals and race in America's first drug war," Bulletin of the History of Medicine [forthcoming]
  • "Prescription drug abuse: A historical perspective," University Express, Erie County Dept of Senior Services, October 6, 2016
  • "Addiction to pharmaceuticals in American history: Lessons from a century of policy failures and occasional successes," Noontime Medical Humanities Lecture Series, UB School of Medicine, October 17, 2016
  • "Racism and its role in white drug exceptionalism: Historical and contemporary examples," White Faces, Black Lives: Race and Reparative Justice in an Era of a "Gentler War on Drugs, Columbia University & Drug Policy Alliance, October 19, 2016
  • "Entitled to Addiction? 100 years of rx drug abuse in America," Academic Rounds, Children's Psychiatry Clinic, Women and Children's Hospital, December 15, 2016

The Other Drug war: A History of Prescription Drug Abuse

A book-length history of prescription drug abuse and addiction in the 20th century United States. Why have vast and growing markets for prescription uppers, downers, and narcotics characterized America's "war against drugs"?  Licit drug abuse has consistently dwarfed "street" drug use, yet drug war scholarship focuses mostly on heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.  I explore the long history of the licit drug cultures that are regularly "discovered" as new and ominous social threats.

See full description
Updated August 2016