Drug Histories and Futures


About the Cluster
The social and historical impacts of psychoactive drugs cannot be encompassed by a simple accounting of statistics, but the striking numbers involved can offer a place to start. In 2015, an estimated 38% of American adults consumed prescription opioids. One in six Americans is thought to regularly consume psychiatric drugs such as anti-depressants. And 47% of the inmates in United States federal prisons as of 2016 were serving sentences for “drug offenses.” Internationally, the figures are even more startling. According to Amnesty International, as many as 7,000 people were executed by drug police or affiliated vigilantes in the Philippines in the first seven months of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency alone.

This research cluster creates new points of connection between UC Santa Cruz faculty and graduate students with an interest in these topics. It draws on the Humanities Division’s existing strengths in science studies and environmental history and extends UC Santa Cruz’s tradition of exploring pressing social questions from an original, non-conformist, and interdisciplinary perspective.

Principal Investigator
Ben Breen (History)

Affiliated faculty
Amanda Smith (Literature)
Matt O’Hara (History)

Affiliated PhD students
Mario Avalos (Sociology)
Shane Baker (Literature)
Ana Flecha (LALS)
Allyson Makuch (Environmental Studies)
Piper Milton (History)
Crystal Smith (History)


February 7, 2020: Bia Labate “Dilemmas of Ayahuasca Globalization in the 21st Century”

October 3rd, 2019: Paul Gootenberg “From Teonanácatl to Miami Vice – Latin America’s Contribution to World Drug Culture”