Archive for the ‘OUTLAWS AND SCORPION TALES’ Category

Book review Drugs in Afghanistan: Opium, outlaws and scorpion tales David Macdonald Pluto Press 2007 320 pages Price 18.99 ISBN 978 0 74532 617 7 Reviewed by Russell Newcombe Senior Researcher, Lifeline As you read these words, thousands of drug dealers are moving along the streets of our cities and towns, spitting pea-sized bags of brown powder into the hands of their customers, for a swift exchange of banknotes.

Hundreds of thousands of these deals take place every day in the streets and houses of Britain. But how many diamorphine devotees know about the source of their little saliva-coated bags of bliss – not just the name of the place, but its culture and history? Well, for the price of one bag – or if they steal it from a bookshop – a vivid description of the source of their pleasure and pain can now be had. Based on his work as a drugs adviser to the UN, including several years spent living in Afghanistan, David Macdonald has provided us with a unique and fascinating account of the multifaceted, mysterious and constantly mutating drug scene inside this bizarre country: ` . the search for the truth about drugs and their uses in Afghanistan . is an elusive enterprise often clouded by exaggeration, rumour, innuendo, myth, half-truths and a sheer lack of reliable information.’ (pxx) Macdonald’s book explains that this `elusive enterprise’ arises from a variety of interrelated factors – notably widespread illiteracy (`people who can’t read rely on hearsay’), the lack of `any institutional mechanism for gathering national data’ (pxxii), and Afghanistan’s `historically improbable amalgam of races and cultures . an impossible place to understand as a whole’ (p1 – quoting Elliot, 2000). Indeed, at several points, it felt more like I was reading a science fiction/fantasy novel about an alien race on a faraway planet (like `Dune’) – not an empirical account of another bunch of human beings a few thousand miles away from the UK. This is an important, illuminating book, which will undoubtedly become a classic of its kind. Rather than trying to produce the standard `black and white’ picture of a nation’s drug use with official facts and figures, Macdonald instead constructs a multidimensional `full colour’ movie out of diverse and dynamic sources of information – from hearsay and direct observation to official reports and ongoing research. His book is packed with a vast array of ideas, information and perspectives, which makes summarising …

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Drugs in Afghanistan


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