David Herzberg


David Herzberg.

David Herzberg


David Herzberg



20th century United States History; Gender and Sexuality; Medicine, Disability and Science; Social and Cultural History


  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2005
  • MA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1997
  • BA, Wesleyan University, 1993

Courses Regularly Taught

Bad Medicine: Race and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, 1932-1972

U.S. History since the Civil War

Drugs & Global Capitalism

Health and Illness in American History

Alcohol & Other Drugs in American History

U.S. Historiography II (grad)

Research Interests

I am a historian of drugs whose research focuses on the legal kind—psychoactive pharmaceuticals. I explore the nature and trajectory of drug commerce, drug use, and drug policy in American racial capitalism. My work has appeared in numerous scholarly and medical journals, in popular media, and in two books: White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America (University of Chicago Press, 2020) and Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). I am also co-editor of Social History of Alcohol and Drugs: An Interdisciplinary Journal, the official organ of the Alcohol and Drug History Society.

Current Research

I am finishing work on two projects:  a book co-authored with Helena Hansen and Jules Netherland on how the politics of whiteness has shaped the history of opioids, opioid addiction, and drug policy in the U.S.; and a volume co-edited with Nils Kessel and Joseph Gabriel exploring alternatives to the drug-medicine divide as a frame for the history of psychoactive substances. I am also beginning research for a new project on the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which broadened international controls to cover synthetic drugs such as amphetamine, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and LSD.  The Convention offers an opportunity to explore how the quest for drug control has also, of necessity, been a quest to define medicine and therapy, framed and influenced but never entirely defined by powerful corporations and the political hierarchies of race, gender, class, and nation.

Selected Publications


David Herzberg, White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America (University of Chicago Press, 2020)

David Herzberg, Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009)

Helena Hansen, Jules Netherland, and David Herzberg, Whiteout: How Racial Capital Changed the Color of Heroin in America (University of California Press, forthcoming 2022)


David Herzberg, “Between the Free Market and the Drug War,” in David Farber, ed., The War on Drugs: A History: Fifty Years, a Trillion Dollars, and Thirty Million Arrests (New York University Press, forthcoming 2021)

David Herzberg and Jeremy Greene, “Stuck in Traffic? Conflicting regimes of global pharmaceutical governance,” Diplomatic History, forthcoming 2021.

“From one extreme to the other? The political construction of opioid consensus in the U.S.’s long 20th century,” Les Cahiers Droit Sciences et Technologies, special issue on “consensus in science and medicine,” forthcoming 2021.

Danielle Fine, David Herzberg, and Sarah Wakeman, “Societal Biases, Institutional Discrimination, and Trends in Opioid Use in the USA,” Journal of General Internal Medicine 36 (2021), 797-801.

Scott Podolsky, David Herzberg, and Jeremy Greene, “Preying on Prescribers (and Their Patients): Pharmaceutical Marketing, Iatrogenic Epidemics, and the Sackler Legacy,” New England Journal of Medicine, April 10, 2019, 1-3.

David Herzberg, “Entitled to Addiction? Race and pharmaceuticals in America’s first drug war,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 91 (Fall 2017): 586-623.

Nancy D. Campbell and David Herzberg, “Gender and critical drug studies: An invitation and an exhortation,” Introduction for co-edited dual special issues of Contemporary Drug Problems 44:4 (December 2017) and Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Fall 2017.

David Herzberg, Honoria Guarino, Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, and Alex S. Bennett, “Recurring Epidemics of Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse in America: Time for an All-Drug Strategy,” American Journal of Public Health, March 2016: 408-10.

David Herzberg, “Pills” in Rethinking Therapeutic Culture, eds. Timothy Aubrey and Trysh Travis (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

David Herzberg, “Busted for Blockbusters: ‘Scrip Mills’ and Prescribing Power in the 1970s,” in Jeremy Greene and Elizabeth Segal Watkins, eds., Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).

Jeremy Greene and David Herzberg, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Popular Promotion of Prescription Drugs in the 20th Century,” American Journal of Public Health (May 2010): 793-803.

David Herzberg, “‘The Pill You Love Can Turn On You’: Feminism, Tranquilizers, and the Valium Panic of the 1970s.” American Quarterly (March 2006): 79-103.


Thomas Jefferson Fund, FACE Foundation (French American Cultural Exchange), for “Crisis or not? Comparing opioids, addiction/overdose, and treatment in U.S. and France,” with Marie Jauffret-Roustide, 2019-2021

Musto Senior Fellow in Residence, David F. Musto Center for Drug Policy Studies, Shanghai, China, June 4-20, 2019

Fulbright Visiting Scholar Enrichment Seminar, Combating Addiction and Addressing the Opioid Crisis, with Jen Read and Ken Leonard, April 24-28, 2019

J. Worth Estes Article Prize from the American Association for the History of Medicine, 2018

IFRIS Visiting Scholar at the Interdisciplinary Research Unit “Sciences, Innovation and Society” (LISIS) at Paris Est Marne-la-Vallée University and at the Research Center for Medicine, Health and Society (CERMES3) at Paris Descartes University, Spring 2017

National Institute of Health / National Library of Medicine, Grant for Scholarly Work in Biomedicine and Health (G13), 2015-2018.

Paper of the Year Award from the American Journal of Public Health, the official organ of the American Public Health Association, 2011.

Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, 1997-2001.

Affiliations and other notes

  • Alcohol and Drug History Society
  • American Institute for the History of Pharmacy
  • American Association for the History of Medicine
  • American Historical Association
  • American Studies Association
  • Organization of American Historians