Pharmaceutical consumerism. A series of targeted research projects, some in collaboration with Jeremy Greene, exploring the role of consumerism in pharmaceutical history, and the role of pharmaceuticals in the history of the consumer culture.
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.
National Library of Medicine / NIH, Grant for Scholarly Works in Biomedicine and Health (G13), 2015-2018
with Honoria Guarino, Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, and Alex S. Bennett, "Recurring Epidemics of Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse in America: Time for an All-Drug Strategy," American Journal of Public Health, March 2016: 408-10
"Gender and drug wars" (symposium organizer with Nancy Campbell), Baldy Center on Law and Social Policy, March 31 & April 1, 2016
"Gender and the Disease Model of Addiction, 1958-1980," American Association for the History of Medicine, April 30, 2016
"Prescription Drug Abuse in American History: Lessons from a century of failures and occasional successes," J. Worth Estes History of Medicine Lecture, Boston Medical Library, Harvard Medical School, April 21, 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.