"With a great reporter's narrative skill and the storytelling ability of a novelist, acclaimed journalist Sam Quinones weaves together two tales of capitalism catastrophically run amok. The unfettered prescribing of pain medications during the 1990s reached its peak in Purdue Pharma's campaign to market OxyContin, its new, expensive--extremely addictive--miracle painkiller. Meanwhile, a massive influx of black tar heroin--cheap, potent, and originating from one small county on Mexico's west coast, independent of any drug cartel--assaulted small towns and midsize cities across the country, driven by a brilliant, almost unbeatable marketing and distribution system. Together these phenomena continue to lay waste to communities from Tennessee to Oregon, Indiana to New Mexico"--Back cover.
Fast forward to today where across America, in small and big towns, cheap, easy to find black--tar heroin is the desired drug of choice. Leading to severe, almost immediate addiction, this potent drug flourishes and races with lightening like speed across the highways and byways of America.
Indeed, it is difficult to know someone who has not been impacted by the effects of drugs upon the social fabric, ripping and tearing apart any safety net imagined, heroin addiction crosses all socioeconomic classes.
The author traces the arrival and incredible snake like, fast-moving poisonous web throughout small-town America,to one major Mexican cartel. In the 1990's, The Xalisco Boys from Nayarit, Mexico were genius in their pizza-like delivery plan. in their wake, they continue to leave thousands upon thousands highly addicted and dead,
In search of the American dream, The Xalisco cartel use poor Mexicans to carry small, rolled balls of heroin in balloons in their mouth. Fanning out across the border, to fit in, they tend to choose communities with a large Mexican population already in place. As soon as they are given a cell phone, the multiple calls arrive all day long, and the young men are more than happy to deliver door-to-door.
This multi-faceted problem has many veins. Coupled with the quick, easy, cheap way to get addicted to herion, hand in hand, is American's addiction to pain killers. Narcotics industries revolutionized advertising both to doctors who dispense, and Americans willing to take mass doses of highly addictive medication.
Arthur Sackler was the revolutionary mind who unleashed the drug advertising campaigns touting the joys and benefits of pain medications. If you visit the New York Metropolitan Museum, you will find an entire wing dedicated to his art given to the met. Not only successful in accumulating art, he was just as craft in advertising opiates. So highly successful was he that In 2008 overdose from opiates outnumbered deaths by auto accident.
Researchers discovered that in the molecular structure of opiates is a compound that fits like a key in a lock, opening the feel-good high calling for larger and larger quantities.
This unlocking structure of opiates makes it so very difficult to give up the habit. Researchers found that the body is so amazing at holding on to this substance, that even the kidneys rebel against eliminating it from the system.
While the book could have been less redundant, I think the author cannot be faulted for this. In his aim to hit the mark of how very insidious this is, he needs to repeat the figures over and over. Like someone who simply cannot believe a terrible fact, he stresses over and over and over again just how very terrible the American landscape has become.
Difficult to read, but recommended.
The book is full of fascinating stories and insights into how the heroin world works. Nearly every preconception I had was shattered. Heroin has gone mainstream, it's middle-class and gentrified. The dealers resemble pizza delivery franchises and work in nice neighborhoods favoring only whites. No guns, no violence, only good customer service and high quality product delivered to you within the hour. Safe, cheap, reliable, abundant. All sourced to the same town in Mexico. Indeed most of the dealers are from the same town. It goes on.
I came across this book as a recommendation on Amazon based on past purchases. I expected a story similar to Methland, and wound up blown away. This is a very scary book, detailing how greed, ignorance, profit, and pure negligence on the part of doctors, big pharma, and the government went about getting a large portion of the population to take opiates for pain, ignoring hundreds of years of proof that these drugs were highly addictive.
At the same time this was happening a large number of enterprising Mexicans from a small state in Mexico began selling cheap, high purity heroin around the country.
The Mexicans set up a business plan as coordinated as a large American company seeking to rapidly grow by franchising. This was happening at the same time you had Doctors and pharmaceutical companies behaving like street corner drug dealers.
The only difference between the two groups was that the drug the doctors were pumping down Americans throats was legal. The difference between the drugs themselves was negligible.
Read this book!
Yes this book could have had a better editor, to manage the storytelling and reduce some of the redundancy, but to let this get in the way and not read what is a must read book, would be a shortsighted decision.
Much of the story centers around Portsmouth, Ohio, a blue-collar town where families once thrived. We follow its history, through an economic collapse, the burgeoning pain clinics and Oxycontin push, and the subsequent onslaught of heroin dealers and addicts.
But the problem is certainly not limited to this one area of Ohio. Quinones takes us through the country, where opiate and heroin addictions go hand-in-hand.
We also learn about the Xalisco Boys, a loosely formed group of Mexican immigrants who take advantage of the new opiate addiction by providing a cheaper alternative. Black tar heroin comes from Mexico, not Afghanistan, and it is a far worse problem than the white powder has ever been.
Throughout this book, we meet the addicts and their families, the dealers, the doctors, and the DEA agents who are trying to make sense of this fast-growing epidemic.
Oxycontin, Oxycodone, and heroin all come from the morphine molecule. One is not safer than the other. They are all highly addictive drugs. Quinones uncovers the lies told to doctors and to patients about the supposed safety of the Oxy product, with pharmaceutical representatives calling it nonaddictive and pushing doctors to prescribe in increasing dosages. The pharmaceutical company here is worse than the street dealer, as they purposely and knowingly create a nation of addicts all in the name of profit. Yet no one is locking them away for their crime.
This is a book that needs to be read by the masses. We have become a nation of drug addicts. Putting it in pill form and labeling it 'medication' only means our dealers are now pharmaceutical companies instead of drug cartels. That is, until the doctor cuts us off or we can't afford the pills anymore. Addiction doesn't go away because the doctor stops writing prescriptions or because the pills cost too much. When that happens, we just turn to the cheaper alternative. Whether we call them 'legal medications' or 'illegal drugs', it's all the same and it's all destructive.
*Neither I nor the author make the claim that pain meds should not be prescribed and used appropriately - only cautiously.*
**I was given a free copy of this book by Bloomsbury via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.**
Dream Land is the perfect follow up to Methland.
It is amazing how fast Republican lawmakers get empathy and compassion when heroin jumps racial lines.
(possible legislation) if you can create a law holding drug dealers accountable for an overdose, does that include drug companies and overprescribing Docs? [just posting the question. my thoughts on that issue go way more than available screen space to write]
drug companies and their leadership should be held accountable; VERY accountable.