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Lucas Richert, PhD

Associate Professor
George Urdang Chair in the History of Pharmacy

Lucas Richert (RICK-ert) studies intoxicating substances and the pharmaceutical industry. He also examines the history of mental health. 

His recent book, Break on Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture,  historicizes radical mental health practices in the 1960s-1970s. Richert discusses anti–Vietnam War activism and the new diagnosis of post–traumatic stress disorder given to some veterans; how radical psychiatrists fought the system (and each other); the entry of New Age–style therapies, including Esalen's Human Potential Movement, into the laissez-faire therapeutic marketplace of the 1970 the development of DSM III; and the use of LSD, cannabis, and MDMA. Many of these issues have resonance today. Debates over medical marijuana and microdoses of psychedelics echo debates of the 1970s. With rising rates of such disorders as anxiety and depression, practitioners and patients continue to search for therapeutic breakthroughs.

Richert is also the author of Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs (2019), focuses on legitimate and illegitimate, legal and illegal drugs. In Strange Trips, Richert investigates the myths, meanings, and boundaries of recreational drugs, palliative care drugs, and pharmaceuticals as well as struggles over product innovation, consumer protection, and freedom of choice in the medical marketplace.

Conservatism, Consumer Choice, and the FDA during the Reagan Era: A Prescription for Scandal, his first book, examined pharmaceutical regulation in the 1970s-1980s (2014). Richert explores the FDA, drugs, and politics in the context of the watershed Reagan era, a period when the rhetoric of limited government, reduced regulation, and enhanced cooperation between businesses and U.S. regulatory agencies was on the ascent. A Prescription for Scandal was awarded the 2015 Arthur Miller Centre First Book Prize.

Richert is developing various new projects. He's co-editing a collection of articles called Socioeconomic Factors and Mental Health: Past and Present (Palgrave Communications). It provides a historical context for today’s mental health crisis, and offers perspectives that can inform current mental health policy, especially attempts to prevent or alleviate mental illness through social change. Richert has one other contracted book nearing completion; it is called Cannabis: Global Histories (The MIT Press). It is based on a Wellcome Trust funded project that aims to provide a broader transnational understanding of marijuana.

If you have thoughts or questions about pursuing areas of research related to any of the above, please feel free to get in touch. 

Richert was awarded graduate degrees from the University of Edinburgh and University of London after beginning his academic studies at the University of Saskatchewan. Prior to joining UW-Madison in 2019, he was a Lecturer and then a Chancellor's Fellow in the University of Strathclyde's Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH). Before that, he held a federally-funded Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship in Canada and worked in policy at the Health Quality Council (HQC).

Richert has worked with several online and print journals. This began in 2008, when he acted as a researcher and writer for the London-based Literary Encyclopedia. During his time with LE, Richert published nearly 500 articles, which have since been viewed 650,000 times. In 2015, Richert worked for the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History as a Research Associate when the journal migrated to the University of Toronto Press online system.

Since January 2018, Richert has served as the co-editor in chief of The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, along with David Herzberg and Nancy Campbell. Under the stewardship of Campbell, Herzberg, and Richert, the journal moved to the University of Chicago Press in January 2019. The first UCP editor's introduction can be viewed here.

Richert also acts as the editor in chief of Pharmacy in History (American Institute of the History of Pharmacy). Besides this, he serves as the Historical Director for the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. 

Highlighted Publications:



Break on Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2019.

Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019.  

Conservatism, Consumer Choice, and the Food and Drug Administration during the Reagan Era: A Prescription for Scandal. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014. Paperback, 2016.

Edited Collections 

Matt Smith and Lucas Richert (eds.) ‘Socioeconomic factors and mental health: past and present,’ Palgrave Communications [2018-2019]

Jim Mills and Lucas Richert (eds.) Cannabis: Global Histories. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2020. (forthcoming)

Journal Publications, Peer-Reviewed 

(with Erika Dyck) 'Psychedelic crossings: American mental health and LSD in the 1970s,' BMJ: Medical Humanities [June 23, 2019: early online publication]

(with Matthew DeCloedt) ‘Supple Bodies, Healthy Minds: Yoga, Psychedelics, and American Mental Health,’ BMJ: Medical Humanities [Vol. 44, 2018] 193-200

‘Psychiatry in Transition, 1968,’ The British Journal of Psychiatry 212:2, February, 2018, 121.

‘Heroin in the hospice: opioids and end-of-life discussions in the 1980s,’ Canadian Medical Association Journal Vol.190, No.37 October 2, 2017, E1231-E1232.

‘“Therapy Means Political Change, Not Peanut Butter”: Radical Psychiatry in the United States, 1967-1975,’ Social History of Medicine Vol.27, No.1, 2014, 104-121. 

‘The Maple Peril: Canadian Drug Reimportation and American Drug Security during George W. Bush’s First Term,’ Canadian Review of American Studies Vol.43, No.1, 2013, 48-73.

‘Trimming Down: The Debate over Weight Loss Drugs and the Push for a Leaner FDA, 1979-2000,’ Pharmacy in History Vol.53, No.2, 2011, 55-69.

Chapters & Contributions to Edited Volumes 

'Mind Meddling: Exploring Drugs and Radical Psychiatry in Archives,' Radical Voices: Collections, University of London Library Publications, Inc. December, 2018, 35-41.

(with Matthew DeCloedt) 'American Psychiatry in Transition: Reform or Revolution?' in Preventing Mental Illness, edited by Matt Smith, Vicky Long, and Despo Kritsotaki. London: Palgrave Macmillan. November 2018, 187-207.

‘Fen-Phen,’ in Sage Encyclopaedia of Pharmacology and Society, edited by Sarah Boslaugh, et al. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing, 2015, 601-603.

‘Canadian Society of Pharmacology and Therapeutics,’ Sage Encyclopaedia of Pharmacology and Society, edited by Sarah Boslaugh, et al. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing, 2015, 306-308.