No Cause for Optimism

In response to:

Unsafe at Any Speed from the October 30, 1975 issue

To the Editors:

In the course of a most knowledgeable and generous review [NYR, October 30], Dr. Norman Zinberg misread Cocaine: Its History, Uses, and Effects on a point which, though minor, requires clarification inasmuch as it places me in a camp to which I do not belong. He cites me as being “cautiously optimistic” about the cocaine research being done under the auspices of the National Institute for Drug Abuse. I am not. On the contrary, I made the point (p. 162) that those most likely to receive NIDA contracts lacked personal knowledge of the drug and thus were incapable of accurately interpreting whatever data they developed. I also noted (pp. 166-169) that what renders the great mass of such organized drug research invalid is a combination of three factors: an inappropriate reliance on the methods of pharmacology, inappropriate because the most significant effects of psychoactive drugs are subjective and not susceptible to pharmacological analysis; moral bias; and self-interest.

Richard Ashley

New York City

Norman E Zinberg replies:

I must apologize to Mr. Ashley. The points he reiterates were indeed clear in his book. My omission undoubtedly occurred as a result of my noting that permitting and encouraging any research at all with cocaine represented a change and that almost any change toward more work with the drug might increase our useful knowledge.