This collection of essays explores the complex and contested histories of drugs and narcotics in societies from ancient Greece to the present day. The Greek term pharmakon means both medicament and poison. The book shows how this verbal ambivalence encapsulates the ambiguity of man's use of chemically-active substances over the centuries to diminish pain, fight disease, and correct behaviour. It shows that the major substances so used, from herbs of the field to laboratory-produced synthetic medicines, have a healing potential, and have been widely employed both within and outside the medical profession. The boundary lines between use and abuse in society have been powerfully contested, while 'alternative' medicine has often sought to develop milder, purer, or more natural drugs. Clearly, these issues remain unresolved today: some highly addictive and dangerous substances such as cigarettes remain freely available, others are available only on prescription, while others are illegal and the objects of international contraband trade and the targets of 'drugs wars'.