The Reading List for Drug Recognition Experts (DRE’s)

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The Drug Recognition Expert School is an intense school. If you have good instructors, they give you a plethora of information that you can use to expand your knowledge beyond what is in the student manual. Reading lists from experienced DRE Instructors are a great resource to expand your knowledge. Most reading lists that I have seen for DRE’s are more in depth than they need to be. They go in depth into physiology, which is great. But a lot of DRE’s are lacking knowledge in the drugs themselves and could use a little more knowledge about drugs and from the drug users themselves. If you want to expand your knowledge on physiology, head over to the junior college and take anatomy and physiology. In the mean time, here are some books that can help you become a better, well balanced DRE.

If you have a book that you think is worthy of this list, put it in the comments at the bottom of the page.


The Drug Identification Bible

The Drug Identification Bible is my #1 resource. This book has hundreds of photos of illicit drugs and does a great job of explaining everything about a particular drug. Don’t know anything about GHB, but you just recovered it? The Drug ID Bible has photos as well as a description of the drug to help you in your investigation. From marijuana to heroin, it is all here. It also has a great pill identification guide. If you recover a pill, you can compare it to known pharmaceuticals pictured in the book for a positive ID. A new edition comes out every two years, however they are pretty close to being the same year to year. I am listing an older copy on Amazon because it is a lot cheaper buying this older addition.

LSD My Problem Child

It seems to be more of a pro-drug book, but you have to read both sides of the story even if you don’t agree with it. With that said, this book this is a great history lesson on hallucinogens.


PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (on Kindle or paperback) and TIHKAL: The Continuation (on paperback, Kindle isn’t available)) were written by Alexander Shulginand his wife Ann. Click the link on Shulgin’s name. He has a pretty interesting story on how he came about becoming manufacturing drugs. TIHKAL and PIHKAL are essentially recipe books on how to manufacture certain classes of synthetic drugs. Both books are broken into two main sections: the first is a love/history story, the second is a massive phenethylamine/tryptamine cookbook. Want to know how to make Flakka? The recipe is here, along with hundreds of other drugs just like it that may or may not be totally legal. I had read both books to prepare for a synthetic drugs class I was putting together. While putting together the class, I was tasked with an undercover assignment to buy a stolen generator from a bad guy in Oakland, CA. While my partner was negotiating a price for the stolen generator, I noticed he had a copy of PIHKAL nearby. I asked him about it and had a great conversation with the bad guy. He admitted to making all sorts of drugs from recipes in the book. He was a great source of information and gave me tons of info beyond what was in the book.

Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug

OK. Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug is a little dry. I had to read it when I was getting my Masters Degree and took a class on the history of drugs. Although it was dry, it was a great history lesson on cocaine and how it came to power. Although synthetics are gaining power, cocaine will be here to stay for a long time. You should read this so you understand how it came to be.

BHO Investigations: An Investigative Guide for Law Enforcement

Hey, help me pay for my kids tuition by buying my book on BHO Labs! In all seriousness, I wrote BHO Investigations a few years ago as a supplement to my class on the same subject. I went across the US teaching this class and wanted my students to have a handbook that would walk them through a BHO investigation, whether it was an explosion or a lab they had been investigating. You may not of had a BHO investigation yet, but you will have one at some point. This trend is only getting more popular and it won’t go away. Do me a favor and rate the book on Amazon.

The Heroin Diaries

Nikki Sixx from the rock band Motley Crue wrote a memoir on his battle with heroin addiction. It’s always good to know what people are going through with their addiction and how they fight it and try to recover. It does have some dark humor, which most cops like anyways.


A good review of how we got to our opiate epidemic. This book has a memorable cast of characters–pharma pioneers, young Mexican entrepreneurs, narcotics investigators, survivors, and parents.

Drug Dealer MD

In Drug Dealer, MD, Dr. Anna Lembke uncovers the unseen forces driving opioid addiction nationwide. Combining case studies from her own practice with vital statistics drawn from public policy, cultural anthropology, and neuroscience, she explores the complex relationship between doctors and patients, the science of addiction, and the barriers to successfully addressing drug dependence and addiction. Even when addiction is recognized by doctors and their patients, she argues, many doctors don’t know how to treat it, connections to treatment are lacking, and insurance companies won’t pay for rehab.

Pill City

In 2015, Baltimore plunged into the worst American riots in recent history. In the chaos, two high school honor-roll students, “Brick” and “Wax, used their smarts, computer skills, ambition and gang connections to change the world of illegal drugs forever. With their gang associates, they looted pharmacies and robbed dealers, stealing over one million doses of prescription narcotics and heroin with a street value of more than $100 million. “Brick” and “Wax” were not going to sell drugs on corners; they used location-based technology and encrypted messaging software to dispatch ordered drugs via delivery drivers—an Uber-like service that eliminated street deals and easily tapped phones. They were soon supplying cities along the East Coast, creating a whole new class of opioid addicts with the FBI and DEA trailing in their wake. To ensure their supply of drugs did not run out, the teens formed an alliance with members of the Sinaloa cartel, headed by El Chapo.

The Dark Art

Edward Follis mastered the chess game—The Dark Art—over the course of his distinguished twenty-seven years with the Drug Enforcement Administration, where he bought eight-balls of coke in a red Corvette, negotiated multimillion-dollar deals onboard private King Airs, and developed covert relationships with men who were not only international drug-traffickers but—in some cases—operatives for Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Shan United Army, or the Mexican federation of cartels.

American Pain

American Pain chronicles the rise and fall of this game-changing pill mill, and how it helped tip the nation into its current opioid crisis, the deadliest drug epidemic in American history. The narrative swings back and forth between Florida and Kentucky, and is populated by a gaudy and diverse cast of characters. This includes the incongruous band of wealthy bad boys, thugs and esteemed physicians who built American Pain, as well as penniless Kentucky clans who transformed themselves into painkiller trafficking rings. It includes addicts whose lives were devastated by American Pain’s drugs, and the federal agents and grieving mothers who labored for years to bring the clinic’s crew to justice.

Methamphetamine: Its History, Pharmacology and Treatment

This book examines the nature and extent of meth use in the United States, from meth’s early reputation as a “wonder drug” to the current perception that it is a “scourge” of society.In separating fact from fiction. The authors provide context for understanding the meth problem by tracing its history and the varying patterns of use over time, then offer an in-depth look at:the latest scientific findings on the drug’s effects on individuals the myths and realities of the drug’s impact on the mind the national and international implications of methamphetamine production the drug’s impact on rural communities, including a case study of two counties in the Midwest issues in addiction and treatment of meth.


Author: Keith Graves
Keith is a retired Police Sergeant and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 29 years. Keith was named as California’s Narcotics Officer of the Year and is a prior winner of MADD’s California Hero Award. He has years of experience as a Narcotics Detective and a Narcotics Unit Supervisor and is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (IACP #3292). Keith teaches both the DRE course and the Drug Abuse Recognition Course and has taught at the Police Academy. He has developed several drug courses for the California Narcotics Officers Association, California POST and California Colleges and currently consults POST on drug investigation procedures. Keith has held other assignments besides narcotics including Training Sergeant, Patrol Sergeant, COPPS Officer, Traffic Officer, and 20 years as a SWAT Team member and Sniper Team Leader. Keith has taught thousands of officers and businesses around the world about drug use, drug trends, compliance training and drug investigations. He is recognized as an international drug expert and has testified as an expert in court proceedings on drug cases, homicide cases and rape prosecutions. Keith earned a BA in Business Management from Saint Mary's College of California and a MA in Criminal Justice. Keith is the Founder and President of Graves & Associates, a company dedicated to providing drug training to law enforcement and private industry.


  • Chris Kendall

    Sir! Great list! Thank you for sharing this!

    Have you ever read “Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy” or “From Chocolate to Morphine”? Both are pretty good books about drug effects in the human body, written by doctors for the layperson to understand. I actually give the “Buzzed” book out to my new DREs and Instructors at graduation. I’m interested to know what you think. If you don’t have a “Buzzed” book, let me know! Thanks again, sir!

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