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History of Medicine speaker dives into the history of addiction treatment

On May 1, Dr. David Herzberg presented a lecture at Penn State College of Medicine titled “Psychoactive pharmaceuticals and addiction in U.S. history.”

This presentation, part of the Hershey Society for History of Medicine Lecture Series, was a partnership between Penn State College of Medicine’s Department of Humanities and Harrell Health Science Library: Research and Learning Commons.

The talk was also complementary to the National Library of Medicine History of Medicine exhibit “Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures & Medical Prescriptions” that was on display in the Learning Commons during April and May.

Dr. Herzberg, an Associate Professor of History at SUNY-Buffalo, studies the history of prescription drug abuse in America. In his presentation, he explored how the seemingly new crisis of opioid addiction is a part of a long history of problems with pharmaceutical sedatives, stimulants and narcotics going back to the beginning of the 20th century. He explored the varied societal and cultural responses to the emergence of widespread drug addiction starting in the early 20th century based on geography, race and class. He also explored the role of the expert scientists and physicians who were often not held accountable for the substances to which they exposed patients. This cycle of addiction crisis and the social duality of responses persists to this day.

More than 40 faculty, staff, students and community members were in attendance for the talk and the reception after in the library’s History of Medicine space.

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