The Ultimate Reading List for Narcotics Officers

Are you looking for good reading resources to help you learn more about drugs? Although the ultimate reading list for narcotics officers was made for narcs, anyone that has to deal with drugs in the criminal justice system will benefit from the list. While teaching drug related subjects around the globe, I am often asked by students for books to read that will help them better understand drugs and drug abuse.

When I first started working drug crimes, I had no idea what a dosage unit was or even what would constitute sales. My first major bust happened one week off of FTO when I recovered 3 lbs of hashish. My sergeant had to tell me what it was that I had recovered. In order to learn more about drugs, I went to every class I could find (check out what training we have to offer here). I also read everything I could about drugs, drug abuse and addiction. It was reading all of this material that made me a better cop and a good instructor later in life. I compiled this list as a basic read for narcs. However, you should read more than what is here. As an example, you could subscribe to our monthly training bulletin to learn about emerging drug trends.

The Drug Identification Bible

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.



TIHKAL The ContinuationPIHKAL a chemical love storyPIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (on Kindle or paperback) and TIHKAL: The Continuation (on paperback, Kindle isn’t available)) were written by Alexander Shulgin and 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. Knowing what that book meant and what was inside of it helped this property crime case turn into a great lab case.

Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug

Andean CocaineOK. 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.

Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathersnarcoland the mexican drug lords and their godfathers

If you want to know more about drugs beyond the dope in your district, you need to read Narcoland. This was first published in Mexico as Los señores del narco in 2010 and now it has been translated into English for American readers. Mexico is the biggest player in drugs in the US and this will give you a background that will give you a solid foundation on the bigger picture. Narcoland has the definitive history of drug cartels in Mexico.


Butane Hash Oil Investigations: An Investigative Guide for Law Enforcement

butane hash oil lab investigationsHey, 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.


Drug ID and Symptom Guide 6th Edition

Drug ID and symptom guideThis was the first book I ever got to help me in the field. The first edition was written long ago and I still have my copy at home. I was elated when LawTech asked me to edit the 6th edition. I put a lot of effort to keep the book true to its roots. This has pictures of the most common drugs you’ll encounter, along with a description of the drug and the signs and symptoms you’ll see when people are under the influence. I edited this so that the signs and symptoms of drug use coincide with what I teach in the Drug Recognition Expert course and my own Drug Abuse Recognition course. This is the perfect field guide for officers that are hitting the streets to find dope. It’s also a good backup for experience dope cops to remind them of signs and symptoms and the basics of the drug.

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.

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.

What Would You Add to the Reading List for Narcotics Officers?

What have you read that you think is important for narcs and drug enforcers to read? Contact me and let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

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.

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