Shooting Up

A History of Drugs in Warfare

August 2017 9781849048835 496pp
EU Customers


From hallucinogenic mushrooms and LSD, to coca and cocaine; from Homeric warriors and the Assassins to the first Gulf War and today’s global insurgents — drugs have sustained warriors in the field and have been used as weapons of warfare, either as non-lethal psychochemical weapons or as a means of subversion.

Łukasz Kamieński explores why and how drugs have been issued to soldiers to increase their battlefield performance, boost their courage and alleviate stress and fear — as well as for medical purposes. He also delves into the history of psychoactive substances that combatants ‘self-prescribe’, a practice which dates as far back as the Vikings. Shooting Up is a comprehensive and original history of the relationship between fighting men and intoxicants, from Antiquity till the present day, and looks at how drugs will determine the wars of the future in unforeseen and remarkable ways.


‘Fascinating, immensely detailed and surprisingly sober … A rich and compendious book.’ — The Sunday Times

‘An engaging read … a pharmacopoeia of interesting military history, medical research & cultural anecdote.’ — Vice

‘A historical sweep from the Battle of Hastings to Waterloo or ancient Greece to Vietnam suggests that war has rarely been fought sober.’ — London Review of Books

‘In this compelling book about the history and prevalence of alcohol and drugs throughout the history of warfare, Kamieński reveals in copious detail the countless ways “intoxication, in its various forms, has … been one of the distinctive features” of human life.’ — The Guardian

‘Kamieński can be methodical and give detailed figures. Much of his narrative is fascinating, plenty of it is new, and he advances some serious arguments.’ — The Spectator

‘In this profound, troubling, and deeply informative book, Kamieński investigates the relationship between intoxicants and warfare.’ — Foreign Affairs

‘Kamieński’s book is the first comprehensive history of drugs in combat … sure to become a classic.’ — Irish Examiner

‘The author takes the reader on a journey through time … Shooting Up is a great contribution to the literature on that fundamental resource that is essential to combat’ — The World Today

‘This in-depth analysis of the “highs” of war tells a largely untold story — of the role drugs played over the centuries in supporting troops on the battlefield, and the role they will play in future in driving the course of war. Kamieński’s book will undoubtedly come to be regarded as a classic text.’ — Christopher Coker, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics

‘Traditional military histories make only passing references to soldiers’ use of alcohol and various drugs. Łukasz Kamieński, however, provides us with a very non-traditional and fascinating overview of the panoply of drug use in wartime. From providing “Dutch courage” to soldiers, to actually serving as a casus belli, drugs have shaped the very nature of war itself. Shooting Up highlights the pervasiveness of drug use in war, giving us an entirely new perspective on this important dimension of the human, operational and diplomatic history of combat.’ — James J. Wirtz, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California

‘In Shooting Up, Łukasz Kamieński provides a diligent examination, keen view, and detailed discussion of the implications of the long standing, and often controversial use of drugs in military operations. Shooting Up is a most interesting read that makes an excellent contribution to the literature.’ — James Giordano, Department of Neurology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA

‘Who knew that an historical, scholarly psychopharmacology of soldiering could be a page-turner? Kamieński’s book shocks, encourages self-reflection, intellectual excitement, fury at hypocrisy, and that third Aristotelian catharsis: mental clarification. Above all, this is a book for citizens.’ — Jonathan Shay, MD, PhD., Former MacArthur Fellow, and author of Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming

‘If you think you understand the nature of armed conflict you’d better think again. This book shows how warfighters since ancient times have used narcotics to prepare for, endure, and live with fear and violence. A stunning new look at the way wars are fought.’ — Jonathan D. Moreno, David and Lyn Silfen University Professor of Ethics, University of Pennsylvania

‘Not only the definitive history of intoxication in warfare, this beautifully written book offers a deeply informed humanistic perspective on the addictiveness of war itself. Insights from Nietzsche, first-person accounts from combat, military scholarship and biological explanations are woven together into a seamless analysis that should be required reading.’ — Chris Hables Gray, author of Postmodern War: The New Politics of Conflict

‘Flipping the war on drugs, Kamieński gives us drugs at war, from the Greeks to high-tech armies, from drugs as tools of combat to combat as a drug itself. Starting with alcohol and opium, and ending in Hurt Locker territory, Shooting Up offers a novel and ambitious survey of a most timely topic.’ — David Courtwright, author of Forces of Habit


Łukasz Kamieński is Associate Professor at the Faculty of International and Political Studies, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.

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