Dreamland : the true tale of America's opiate epidemic

by Sam Quinones

Paperback, 2015




New York, NY : Bloomsbury Press, 2015.


"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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
In Portsmouth, Ohio circa 1929, the town built a foot-ball field size pool. It became the center for generations to swim, meet others, eat french fries and hot dogs and enjoy a slice of the American dream. That was then, now the town has fallen to decay. Businesses are gone as families moved away. In place of a close-knit community, are major pill mills of distribution. By the mid 2000s, Portsmouth had more pill (OxyCodone, OxyContin,, dilaudid, vicodin) mills per capita than any other in the US. Difficult to believe, it was at one time a thriving community of hard working, blue-collar people who were happy.

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.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic is essential reading because we will all be in pain someday, and doctors will want to prescribe opiates, for example 120 pills when you might only need 10. Eighty-percent of the worlds opiates are prescribed in the USA. We live in a culture of no-pain and instant gratification and the end result is an epidemic. It started with Purdue Pharma which has been described as a legal drug cartel. They unleashed a wave of opiates on America starting in the 90s in Ohio and Kentucky (thus "Hillbilly Heroin"). They made ungodly amounts of money selling highly addictive Oxycontin under the false premise it was not addictive (for people in pain). When casual users became hooked, they turned to cheaper heroin - same molecule, different packaging. Enter the Mexican heroin ("black tar") dealers.

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.
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LibraryThing member zmagic69
This is a very scary, sad, true story, about the drugging of America. You will not forget what happened to our country as a result of greed, ignorance and incompetency!
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.
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LibraryThing member Darcia
This book is a fascinating and disturbing look at the connection between the use of prescription opiates and heroin addiction. The author blends facts with real life stories, pulling us into this world where pharmaceutical companies and pill mill doctors are knowingly creating addicts.

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.**
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LibraryThing member GShuk
Great eye opening, compelling story worth reading. It could easily have been a 5 star if 1/4 of the repeated material was removed. The repetition caused confusion and made the story drag in parts.
LibraryThing member dcoward
A fascinating, sobering, and at times even hopeful look at the opiate and heroin epidemic in the United States.
LibraryThing member jlbattis
Two horrifying tales of unintended consequences, brilliantly interwoven by a master of narrative nonfiction. Powerful and important.
LibraryThing member revslick
Fantastic writing and even better job of editing a fun and informative read paralleling America's opioid and black market heroin trade and subsequent addiction problem. I will definitely be checking out more of Quinones' work.

Random thoughts:
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.
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LibraryThing member abycats
Almost overwhelming in its details of how legal opiates led to the heroin epidemic. As someone with several friends whose chronic is pain has been under control and who are now facing total disaster from the outgrowth of this book, I wish it had concentrated a bit more on not throwing out the baby with the bath water. I know of at least one suicide of a person who simply could not cope with being told they would again have to face debilitating pain simply because their doctor felt they lacked the power to prescribe. Yes, the heroin epidemic and the sale of over prescribed pills are real and rampant. But please -- a little more thought for those with chronic pain who have had long-term relief with prescribed opiates.… (more)
LibraryThing member cookierooks
Would have been better if less disjointed, wanted to know more than soundbites, jumped around a lot.
LibraryThing member jaylcee
Very hard book to read because it is disturbing to be made aware of how widespread addiction to opiates and heroin is. I found it appalling that people do not care if they destroy other people as long as they can make a buck. This includes not just the drug dealers. It applies as well to doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Quinones makes some very interesting observations in his afterword which, if expanded upon, could be another book on the societal ills facing America and the breakdown of community.… (more)



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