A Primer of Drug Action

When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. A Primer of Drug Action is one of my sources.

The parts I generally took notes from were either about the drugs themselves or the prohibition of drugs. You’ll find the information garnered from these books throughout the Prohibition Politics section of this site. It will also have informed some of my own postings stored in the older Prohibition Politics archive.

If you find this information useful, you will want to search out the books themselves to read the text in context. All of the books here are at least moderately interesting.


Robert M. Julien’s reference guide is both comprehensive and accessible, and continually updated. There’s not much here as far as history is concerned but it’s a treasure trove of information about drug effects.

“Occasionally, certain anesthetic agents become misused drugs. Nitrous oxide is an example. A gas of low anesthetic potency, it is incapable of inducing deep levels of anesthesia if an adequate oxygen concentration is maintained. Nitrous oxide induces a state of behavioral disinhibition, analgesia, and euphoria. One of the problems occasionally encountered when nitrous oxide is used for recreational purposes is that, unless the compound is administered with at least 20 percent oxygen, hypoxia (decreased oxygen content of the blood) can be induced. But in order to achieve high enough concentrations of nitrous oxide to get a good behavioral effect, concentrations of 50 percent or greater must be inhaled. If such concentrations are mixed with room air, inhaled oxygen concentrations drop to low levels and the hypoxia may result in irreversible brain damage.”