The chapters begin with quotes from mostly literary figures; e.g., De Quincey, Dickens, and Louisa May Alcott, extolling or condemning the properties of the most well-known representatives from each class of drug. Chapters then proceed to describe history of use, isolation of active compounds, pharmacology and receptor-binding properties, derivatives of the primary active compound, and medical and illicit use. Additional headings cover unique aspects of each drug family; for example, the current status of the medical marijuana debate, designer hallucinogens, and treatment of narcotic dependence. There is plenty of fascinating historical and anthropological information, and issues of religion and philosophy are not avoided. Indeed, in one of his footnotes, Perrine refers to some of his own experiences training as a Jesuit novice.