Conference to Explore "The Pub, the Street and the Medicine Cabinet"

Opium dens, grog shops, coca-mania and a century of drug wars are all on the plate

Release Date: June 13, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- If you crave facts about addiction, abjection and the search for love, 60 years of opium smoking in New York City or ancient Roman dinners featuring magic mushrooms, you're in luck.

These are just a few of the subjects on the program of "The Pub, the Street and the Medicine Cabinet," the 6th Biennial Meeting of the Alcohol and Drug History Society, which will take place June 23-26 in partnership with the American Institute for the History of Pharmacy at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Conference Center, Buffalo.

The university is hosting the conference and UB medical historians will be among the presenters at the conference, which was made possible by generous support from many quarters at UB, including the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy (Law School), the Humanities Institute (College of Arts and Sciences), the interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Ethics, the Department of History (College of Arts and Sciences) and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

A film crew shooting a documentary for the History Channel will be onsite for the presentations by scholars from around the world on a wide range of issues involving alcohol, drugs and pharmaceuticals from the ancient world to the 21st century.

Registration ranges from $120 for general registrants to $50 for graduate students, with special rates available for community members. The program and online registration are available at For further information, contact

David Herzberg, PhD, associate professor of history at UB, says, "We've got a wonderful crop of papers this year for more than 25 themed panels covering every aspect of this rich history from the point of view of cultural studies, sociology, law, diplomacy, medicine and many other fields. Presenters will include both new and established scholars, with historians joined by physicians, sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists and others."

The conference will include panels on everything from historical cycles of temperance reform to the proliferation of opium dens and grog shops; from drugs and moral panics on the borders of the British Empire to modern day pharmaceutical cultures and drug wars in all their permutations. The conference also will also screen and discuss the PBS documentary film, "The Narcotics Farm: The Rise and Fall of America's First Prison for Drug Addicts," an examination of one of America's most ambitious drug treatment institutions, the Narcotics Farm in Lexington, Ky. It is a film that speaks volumes about what it meant to be a drug addict in the mid-20th century.

Herzberg will moderate a panel on popular culture and the drug wars. Michael Bozarth, PhD, associate professor of psychology at UB, will address the June 23 plenary session on contemporary theories of addiction, and co-host the discussion of "The Narcotics Farm." UB Department of History doctoral student Michael Durfee will discuss the politics of the 1980s "crack" panic in relation to Len Bias, the 23-year-old all-American college basketball player who died of a cocaine overdose in 1986 two days after being selected by the Boston Celtics in the NBA draft.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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