Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones — Reviewed by Guy Portman
This award winning account of America’s opiate epidemic asserts that its origins are two-fold — the pharmaceutical industry and Mexican importation. In 1996 Purdue Pharma introduced its new opiate-containing, prescription pain-reliever pill, OxyContin. Utilising misinterpreted and misrepresented medical research, the company set about on an unprecedented marketing campaign, which culminated in doctors prescribing OxyContin for all types of pain. Rampant addiction followed.
Meanwhile, black tar heroin was flooding north, most of it originating from Xalisco, a little-known region on Mexico’s Pacific coast. West of the Mississippi, in countless small cities and towns, young, salaried Mexican delivery drivers were spitting balloons of their cheap and addictive product into the palms of white, affluent customers, who in many instances had Big Pharma to thank for their opiate predilection. There is considerable focus on Portsmouth, Ohio, a former manufacturing town, now rundown and overrun with drug addicts.
Narrated by a skilled storyteller, Dreamland is a meticulously researched, multi-faceted work about addiction, entrepreneurship and the perils posed by unrestrained corporate greed. Composed of short, engaging chapters and employing an effective, non-didactic reporting style, this is a compelling book that will appeal to many. The only minor criticism is the author’s occasional tendency to repeat himself.