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Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  14,017 ratings  ·  1,809 reviews
New York Times Bestseller

It is now one hundred years since drugs were first banned in the United States. On the eve of this centenary, journalist Johann Hari set off on an epic three-year, thirty-thousand-mile journey into the war on drugs. What he found is that more and more people all over the world have begun to recognize three startling truths: Drugs are not what we th
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published January 20th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 15th 2015)
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Kay Strand This book should be required reading for every member of Congress. Our way of dealing with drugs and addiction needs a complete overhaul beginning wit…moreThis book should be required reading for every member of Congress. Our way of dealing with drugs and addiction needs a complete overhaul beginning with the legalization and decriminalization of all drugs.
Kay S(less)
Jansen Estrup The language is appropriate for a wide ranging audience - quotes may seem offensive, but they are in real peoples' actual language about real anguish.…moreThe language is appropriate for a wide ranging audience - quotes may seem offensive, but they are in real peoples' actual language about real anguish. I found nothing shocking-for-shockings-sake ... (less)
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Jennifer J.
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
ok. So, I am a harm reduction activist and an addictions researcher. I write those "dry sociological studies" that Hari enjoys rolling his eyes at. I basically hate-read this book out of a sense of professional obligation. Not because of the story Hari told, but for the atrociously bad way he told it.

I hated this book a whole lot. This is a sensationalist and problematic book. It has been touted as some kind of game changer in the conversation about addiction, but none of the information in this
Leo Robertson
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential reading for humans.

I'm all for anything that refreshes in the reader a feeling that compassion is urgent. Here in this book we have strong evidence, all over the world, of a compassion-starved state of emergency, of antiquated laws driving people into isolation, ostracizing them and pushing them further from essential human connection.

I've never before listened to the argument that we should legalise all drugs, mostly because the person who's brought it up only wants to legalise drugs
Josh Johnson
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's quite ironic that this is probably the most addictive book I've ever read. Harrowing and emotional but something everyone should read! ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Engrossing Exploration of Drug War Failures

"I've seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie's like a settin' sun."
"Needle and the Damage Done," Neil Young, 1972

An engrossing exploration of the failures of the "war on drugs." The narrative tracks through the war's czar in the U.S., users and abusers, peddlers, law enforcement, the poor souls who have been "collaterally damaged" (family members and innocent bystanders), current policy makers, as well as
Michael Flanagan
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Every now or then a book comes along that leaves you breathless and changes the way you look at the world. Chasing The Scream is one of those books a profound read that has made me rethink the war on drugs on made me look at how I carry out my own work.

The war on drugs whether you know it or not has changed the very nature of the society we live in. It has turned a health issue into one of crime and by doing so encouraged more crime and violence. The evidence gathered in this book is overwhelmin
May 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
I have really mixed feelings about this book. Hari's writing style is excecrable, and his account of the drug war is oversimplified. I can't emphasize enough how poorly written this book is - it reads like overly emotional, ham-fisted pap. And yet, I have to say that I think this book's popularity will be a net positive on the balance. It brings together a lot of good arguments in one place and makes them easily digestible and relatable to the kind of reader who might not otherwise be motivated ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time and should be a must read for anyone who works in the field of substance abuse/ addiction. It is well researched and offers a valid alternative to the failed war on drugs in the USA. I have always advocated for the legalization of drugs and a total overhall in our drug policies - this book provides evidence on why legalization is the way to go. It is compelling and fascinating. Seriously, just read it. Even if the topic doesn't appeal to y ...more
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Johann Hari sets out to answer some of our most pressing questions about “the war on drugs” in his book Chasing the Scream. Within the pages of this book, you will find out how and why the “war” began, how it impacts people from all walks of life, and how cities and countries across the world are changing the way they deal with both drugs and drug users.

Chasing the Scream is an absolute gem, and I honestly feel that it's one of the best examinations of drug policy that I've read. Hari examines
I've seen television interviews and roundtables with Hari, and when I found out that he had written a book about drug policy and the science and sociology of addiction, I immediately added the book to my library list.

The book was not what I was expecting - but this is not because I was disappointed with it in any way. What struck me is how very personal this book was for Hari. His first chapter explains the history of drug addiction in his family, and how it has also affected him personally. Th
J. Ewbank
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-good-read, science
That noise you just heard are the flying away of my presuppositions about the drug war. i have been naieve in the area of drugs and so have been pretty anti ddrugs. The things I hard about were scarry and awful. Though much of this remains true, I can see where legalization of some of the drugs would certainly hurt the drug trafficers and we could use the money to much more humanely work with those who are and weil become addicted. Johann Hari has asked and worked years to answer many of the que ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
I have always been very anti-drug war, and so I am very much the "choir" that Hari is preaching to, but I cannot in good conscience recommend this book. From a policy perspective it seems like it could be very persuasive, so from an "ends justify the means" point of view, maybe I am a bit happy that it's out there, but it embodies almost everything I hate about popular journalism. I think that this New York Times review gives a good idea about many of this book's problems.

The absolute stand-out
Alice Lippart
Excellent at gathering information and facts as well as adding humanity to the topic by telling different people's stories, but overall not as revolutionary as I thought it was going to be. ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly constructed, lucid, compelling and mind changing

I am 100% changed in my views.

Thoroughly recommended
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very worthy, well-researched and well-written book. It should, I hope, come to be regarded as an important book.

I don't like the title, and I don't like that there are whole classes of drugs he ignores - concentrating on cannabis and heroin with a nod to cocaine, but largely ignoring the others, except to assassinate Timothy Leary. What he does cover though, he covers sensibly, intelligently and with touching humanity.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an eye opening book that everyone should read. It will change the way you think. Our War on Drugs does not work. It actually makes crime worse and the people who need help the most get thrown out by society. I don't like drugs but this book changed my mind on how we are treating the drug problem. It's been almost 100 years of doing it in a way that has only made it worse. We have high crime, drug addicts, diseases, gangs, death on the streets, incarceration that is off the charts, people ...more
This is a good introduction into how the drug war took over America. I still think Carl Hart's High Price is a more engrossing and scientific read, but this book condenses over 100 years of history for us non-drug users and I like that the desire to write it came from a place of compassion. ...more
the war on drugs has been an unmitigated disaster for all involved, except for drug mafia profiteers, they are doing ok, becoming billionaire wacked murderers, and usa prisons for profit, they are doing ok, becoming billionaire-without-a-shred-of-ethics-or-morals capitalists gaming usa "justice" system, and the usa drug mafias, they are doing ok, making literally billions of dollars running a gigantic black economy tax free while their burned out, busted, dead, mutilated customers and employees ...more
Linda Tuplin
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the most readable, common sense books on the subject that I have read. It put a really interesting spin on the issue, and one that I feel is valid. "If we can't bond with other people, we will find a behaviour to bond with...if the only bond you can find that gives you relief or will return to that bond obsessively." Should be recommended reading for all health care professionals, if for no other reason than to reawaken compassion. ...more
Nov 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
I only read the first third of this book before I made the mistake of Googling the author. There are too many books in the world I want to read without wasting my time on a disgraced journalist who betrayed the trust of his readers with plagiarism, fabrication and lies. Why should I ever trust anything he says? How can I trust anything in this book? Lying in journalism is a betrayal that I cannot forgive. Also, the unnecessarily sensationalist style of his writing, with the breathless and clunki ...more
Robert Morris
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Read this book. Then get someone else to read it. This is not a flawless read, but it is a good one, and it is very very important. Johann Hari spent three years researching what he calls the "beginning and the end" of the drug war, and he has produced an absolutely damning account. I have been a convinced opponent of the drug war for decades, but I was stunned by the power of this book. By telling the stories of just a few of the lives destroyed by the Drug War he illustrates its insanity and o ...more
Baal Of
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me, the biggest message of this book is that America's war on drugs is utterly evil. It has caused tremendous amounts of harm in the form of ruined lives and broken families, massive unnecessary incarceration, and abuse by police against people who are defined as criminal for nothing more than smoking a bit of pot. It has created massive amounts of violence and crime, increasing, or even creating from whole cloth cartels and gangs that escalate their violence to prove that they should not be ...more
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I wasn't sure what I would think of this, given Hari's past difficulties, but since he made every effort to substantiate and document each quote, I happily relaxed into the very best argument for ending the drug war I've ever read. Not only was it articulate and readable and logical, but Hari uses the stories of those on all sides of the drug wars to illustrate his thesis, and the result is stunning. I honestly think this book would make the most diehard drug warrior a little shaken. For so ...more
Jaclyn Day
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is masterful nonfiction. The best nonfiction informs and illuminates, making a reader feel more compassion or more passionate (or both) about a subject. Good nonfiction is not staid or dry: it’s provocative. And this book is incredibly provocative. It’s also heart-wrenching and difficult to process. It made me angry and sad, while giving me the smallest of glimpses outside the bubble in which I have the privilege to reside. Hari writes several books in one here. The first book is a well-res ...more
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book completely changed my view on drugs, addicts and human connection. This book should be read by anyone who is interested in US History, has anyone close with an addiction of any kind, or is interested on how the prohibition started and the reasons behind it. It is very well written and it leaves you with the desire to play a more active role in the war on drugs.
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I think this is a very important book in the discussion about addiction on both a societal and personal level. The accounts and studies that Hari reports upon add some food for thought.

My biggest trouble with this book were the stories. While I understand their importance, their narrative handling felt overly sentimental and my emotional strings were yanked around. It felt more manipulative than heartfelt. Perhaps this was partially due to the narrator, or perhaps not.

I have also read about Ha
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Drugs are not what we think they are. Drug addiction is not what we have been told it is. The drug war is not what our politicians have sold it as for one hundred years and counting. And there is a very different story out there waiting for us when we are ready to hear it-one that should leave us thrumming with hope.”

This starts of by focusing on three people, Harry Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Arnold Rothstein a racketeer and the singer Billie Holiday. Hari builds up
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh wow, what an eye-opener. I've always liked the work of Johann Hari, despite the controversy which surrounded him recently (and which he has openly admitted and accepted guilt for - which in itself boosts him in my eyes) so I was looking forward to reading this book. If there is a clearer, harder hitting, more balanced and more shocking book describing the stupidity of the war on drugs, then I've not seen it. There were parts of this book where I found myself in tears at the inhumanity meted o ...more
Thomas Ray
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing

"Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find - the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding'. A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else.

So the opp
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow... This was the best book I've read in a long time. It has certainly influenced the way I perceive drugs, drug users, drug addicts, social policy and the drug war. This book made me recognize and reconsider social prejudices and preconceptions that I didn't even realize I had. I recommend it to everyone. To paraphrase the author, the effects of drugs and drug prohibition have a much broader influence in our lives and global society than most people imagine and those effects are not limited t ...more
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this. It's just the sort of non-fiction book that I enjoy. Perfect for any fans of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City or The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. ...more
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Johann Hari is an award-winning British journalist and playwright. He was a columnist for The Independent and the Huffington Post, and has won awards for his war reporting. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Nation, Le Monde, El Mundo, the Melbourne Age, El Pais, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Irish Times, The Guardian, Ha'aretz, the Time ...more

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