Lucas Richert is the George Urdang Chair in the History of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and historical director for the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. His work explores prescription and illicit drugs, the American counterculture, and the influence of various power structures within and beyond psychiatry.
As a scholar of the pharmaceutical industry, Richert encountered a trove of historical documents that talked about the self-described radicals in mental health from the 1970s. “They cared about relevant issues, things that we talk about right now: racism, the environment, militarism, and political division. It really grabbed hold of me when I got these documents, they were a catalyst.” This project turned into his 3rd book, Break on Through: Radical psychiatry and the American counterculture in which he examines the tumultuous 1970s in America with a focus “not just on the elite doctors and people in positions of power, but also wider societal trends.”
In addition to Break on Through, Richert has published A Prescription for Scandal: Conservatism, consumer choice, and the food and drug administration during the Reagan era and Strange Trips: Science culture, and the regulation of drugs. His fourth book, Cannabis: Global Histories, will be available later this year (2021).
In this interview, we will discuss the radical landscape of American psychiatry in the 1970s, “therapeutic” and “non-therapeutic” drugs and how they are classified as such, and feminist critiques of psychiatric institutions.
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