An Amazon Best Book of April 2015: The rise of OxyContin addiction and subsequent heroin use has been much in the news lately as we try to make sense of what is happening in suburban and small town America. Sam Quinones’ Dreamland takes a multifaceted approach to the subject, profiling people from all walks of life, ranging from citizens of impoverished Mexican ranchos to young affluent white athletes, all cogs in the wheel of the latest drug epidemic. Unlike the crack cocaine phenomenon of the 1980s, today’s widespread opiate addiction has roots in the prescription pads of certified physicians and the marketing machine of Big Pharma. When the addict, forced by availability and economics, transitions to heroin he is met by a new breed of entrepreneurial drug dealers who are only too happy to take calls and make deliveries. The changing landscape of small town America, along with science, opportunity, shame, and of course greed, all play a role here and to see the puzzle come together, one comprehensible piece at a time, is as fascinating as it is unsettling.
With a great reporter’s narrative skill and the storytelling ability of a novelist, acclaimed journalist Sam Quinones weaves together two classic tales of capitalism run amok whose unintentional collision has been catastrophic. 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 town and mid-sized 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.
Introducing a memorable cast of characters–pharma pioneers, young Mexican entrepreneurs, narcotics investigators, survivors, and parents–Quinones shows how these tales fit together.Dreamland is a revelatory account of the corrosive threat facing America and its heartland.
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