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Book Review of Dreamland By Sam Quinones

January 14th, 2016 No comments

Cover of Dreamland

Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

Last year, I started seeing news stories popping up about middle class kids in the middle of the country dying of heroin overdoses. It didn’t make any sense. I always associated heroin with crime-infested urban areas in the 70s.  How could it possibly be ending up in the veins of cheerleaders, football players, and college kids who grew up on Main Street?

Dreamland gave me the answer. Author Sam Quinones, a veteran journalist, dug into this story and what he found was both fascinating and depressing. Dreamland takes readers down a peculiar journey were two potent forces – big pharma and a novel new take on drug dealing – inadvertently collide. The results created a massive plague of addiction and death across the country. People got hooked on OxyContin and then switched to the potent, readily available, and cheap black tar heroin which was streaming across the border from a single small county in Mexico.

Throughout the book, Quinones gives readers a series of heartbreaking vignettes. We meet the confused and devastated parents of dead kids, young Mexicans for whom heroin dealing represents the only path out of poverty, and the small circle of police officers, drug rehab workers, coroners, and judges who fought to bring a voice to this mostly silent plague.

Dreamland was fascinating in the same way of an oncoming train wreck. I wanted to look away…but somehow I just couldn’t. Quinones is a masterful storyteller who follows a complex, sometimes bizarre web of people and circumstances. This isn’t just a book about junkies, dealers, and the people trying to stop them. It’s a book about circumstances. Quinones links the heroin epidemic to the decay of middle America, to the privilege and boredom of today’s youth, to the masterful and manipulative marketing campaign of Purdue Pharma, and a legacy of shame and embarrassment that kept parents from speaking out about their children’s problems.

Dreamland answered my questions about why kids were dying of heroin overdoses in America and gave me so much more to think about. If you can excuse the inappropriate pun, I was hooked from start to finish. I saw an ugly side of America, but one we can’t afford to ignore any longer.

(Note: Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links.)