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Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic

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4.24  ·  Rating details ·  7,826 Ratings  ·  1,209 Reviews
In fascinating detail, Sam Quinones chronicles how, over the past 15 years, enterprising sugar cane farmers in a small county on the west coast of Mexico created a unique distribution system that brought black tar heroin—the cheapest, most addictive form of the opiate, 2 to 3 times purer than its white powder cousin—to the veins of people across the United States. Communit ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 21st 2015 by Bloomsbury Press (first published April 15th 2015)
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Carmen Blankenship
There are not enough stars in the rating system to accurately explain how important this book is. There isn't a home that should not have a copy. Dreamland by Sam Quinones is the single most well researched, well written, and heartbreaking account on the plague of opiate addiction. I can tell you this confidently because I am an oppiate addict, who has been clean for five years. Dreamland will take you not only through the history of opiates but to living rooms of white suburban American who has ...more
Ellen Gail
It only took me a month, but I'm finally done! Whew.

But it was the United States...that now consumed 83 percent of the world's oxycodone and fully 99 percent of the world's hydrocodone...people in the United States consume more narcotic medication than any other nation worldwide.

Dreamland is the story of the surge of opiate addiction in the mid 90s / early 2000s in the United States. Facilitated by the massive prescribing of new "miracle dug" Oxycontin, new changes in the attitudes around man
...more
Denny Bales
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary Investigative Journalism

I have been an American cardiologist for many years. I've had little awareness of the many thousands of deaths caused by the narcotic epidemic described so well in this book. The strangling web of causes, you will learn, includes misinterpreted medical research leading to deadly malpractice, shady doctors, the rusty economic meltdown, the easy penetration of Mexican heroin into the U.S., the economic desperation of Mexican small town culture, highly effectiv
...more
Kris
May 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
There are so many problems with this book.

I don't really take issue with the writing, although, as other reviewers have pointed out, it can become repetitive. And there were sides to the story that I'd never heard of in depth before, such as the rise of the "Xalisco Boys," who comprise the nation's new drug dealers, or the overzealous, irresponsible marketing of drugs. But the problem is primarily one of oversimplification. This book tells us over and over how the problem of America's opiate add
...more
Perry
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Frightful Look at the Related Crises of Opioids and Black Tar Heroine

"I've seen the needle and the damage done,
A little part of it in everyone,
But every junkie's like a settin' sun."
Neil Young, Needle and the Damage Done, 1971

This is a frightening exploration of the current opioid and heroine addiction crises in the U.S. and what's led us here. The book provides a compelling look at the interplay between opioids (lortab, norco, oxycontin, etc.) and the cheaper version addicts turn to when they c
...more
Lindsay
Apr 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Really important to get this information out, and the book is very well researched. From a writing perspective, though, I agree with the reviewer who said the structure doesn't build a narrative and feels very repetitive. The piece Quinones published in the NY Times a few weeks back covered most of the key points quite well in a more compact format.

The last 20% or so brings in some of the solutions to the problem and covers more topics.

In the acknowledgements section the author seemed to say th
...more
Siv30
המחבר סם קווינונס (או משהו כזה תסלחו לי אם עיוותתי את השם) יוצא במסע מחקרי אל לב המאפליה של ההתמכרות האמריקאים להירואין ואופיאטים. במסע מבוסס על ראיונות עם מכורים, בני משפחתם, אנשי חוק וסוחרים קטנים הוא מתחכה אחר מקורות המגפה שתקפה את אמריקה בשני העשורים האחרונים.

הספר די מזעזע והוא מתאר שלב אחרי שלב את התפשטות מגפת ההתמכרות לאוקסיקונדין שהיא תרופת שיכוך לכאבים מקבוצת האופיאטים ולהתפשטות מגפת ההירואין בארה"ב. החל מהשלב החרדתי של מערכת הבריאות שהיתה מוטרדת מהתמכרות לתרופה ועד שחרור כל הבלמים בדהי
...more
Nancy Oakes
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
there's more at my online journal nonfiction page, so feel free to click here to go there if you'd like.

If you are someone who pays attention, it is no secret that there is a massive heroin epidemic in this country. Dreamland takes its readers into examining the burgeoning heroin problem. Mr. Quinones charts how the "realities of American medicine and medical marketing of the 1980s and 1990s" came to be "connected to why, years later, men from a small town in Mexico could sell so much heroin
...more
Nick
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-sciences
Read this book. I'm going to say that again: READ. THIS. BOOK. If you live anywhere in middle America, but especially if you live in Southern Ohio, you have to read this book to see where the scourge of narcotics has come from. The origins of the opiate epidemic are laid out as clearly as possible for all to see. One of the most significant problems in our society over the last 20 years, and the perfect storm that led to it called out in black and white. But probably most significant is how clea ...more
Darcia Helle
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 subse
...more
Cindy Leighton
As the mother of both a medical student and of a recovering (? Part of the pain - you can never be completely sure) addict, I found this impeccably researched book on the creation of opiate addiction (in large part by doctors who were fed and believed lies by the pharmaceutical companies pimping their wares) in the US compelling, fascinating, terrifying, heartbreaking, and scary af.

The book itself could stand a bit of editing; at times it feels like Quiñones spent so much time investigating he
...more
Gwen
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
My first job as a nurse was on a surgical floor. I routinely gave people narcotics, both intravenously and as pills. I had patients who had undergone radical surgeries that required high doses of course, but as any healthcare provider can attest, there were also plenty of patients demanding narcotics for even minor procedures. I remember one patient, in her early twenties, who refused to be discharged unless her doctor gave her a prescription for fifty percocets! He did, of course, so she would ...more
Kevin
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and infuriating account of the work of the Xalisco Boys (a network of Mexican drug dealers selling cheap heroin) and Purdue Pharmaceuticals selling the pain medication oxycontin (which Purdue insisted was non-addictive even though it's essentially heroin) converged to create an opiate-addiction epidemic across the country, but particularly in the Ohio River Valley. Some people genuinely needed pain medication; others were people leading hopeless lives in the Rust Belt and were lookin ...more
Diane Yannick
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this book to learn more about the history of the opiate epidemic and believe me, I learned a lot. That said, it took me awhile to plow through the many redundancies. Some aggressive editing would have made this book more palatable. However, I'm giving it 4 stars for the author's meticulous research and ability to make that information accessible to me. It simultaneously tells the stories of the Xalisco boys, who introduced Mexican black tar heroin to many communities, Purdue Pharma Compan ...more
Jeanette
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is thorough to progress for this horrific opiate epidemic that has lead to numerous "black tar" heroin overdose deaths. At times in places within the USA that never had a single heroin related problem before this progression of the last fifteen years. This quite beyond the huge number of addictions to opiate pills which ignite the need for more of the same class.

It details the Mexican group/ groups primarily expanding to a huge business within the USA.

It holds 100's of anecdotal stories, bu
...more
Lisa
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, fascinating account of the rise of opiate addiction in America. This is a masterwork of research and writing that traces the factors — from pharmaceutical marketing to the invasion of black tar heroin — that created a perfect storm and ruined the lives of millions. More frightening than anything I could ever write.
Mel
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
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Jenna
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a “wowza” of a book. A comprehensive investigation of the pain pill addiction in America and how it led to a new wave of heroin abusers and overdose deaths, this is powerful reading for anyone who works in healthcare, addiction treatment, or has been affected by this crisis.

As soon as I heard about Dreamland, I knew I would want to read it. My career in pharmacy spans much of the time period Quinones covers in the book. I remember Purdue reps and their assured certainty that for patient
...more
Terri
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Quinones deserves all manner of credit for writing this book. It could have done with a bit of editing, as it does get repetitive at times, but this doesn't get in the way of the story he is telling about how the marketing of opiates by Big Pharma and their resulting overprescription by physicians "tenderized" the market for heroin provided by the Xalisco Boys, heroin runners from the small town of Xalisco in the Mexican state of Nayarit, whose innovative way of dealing allowed them to take over ...more
Kirsti
Sprawly, vivid, fascinating, horrifying journalism. How can you tell if a business that calls itself a pain clinic is an actual pain clinic or a pill mill? Check out the parking lot. If the lot is full of people standing around, wearing pajamas, getting into fistfights, and having pizza delivered, then you are looking at a pill mill.

One of the doctors that Quinones interviews has a theory: America has about the same percentage of addictive personalities that it has always had, but that OxyContin
...more
Tamara Hala
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible, 2015
I read this book as someone who has dealt with heroin addiction first-hand with a family member. I wanted to know more about how this drug spread and became so popular and readily available. This book is incredibly informative and gives an interesting yet depressing history of how opiates and subsequently heroin got so widespread in the United States. It helped to read accounts of other people who are experiencing the same thing my family has gone through and to know we are far from alone.
Leo Walsh
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Amazing account of America's opioid crisis. Sam Quinones' Dreamland traces how the epidemic started with big Pharma acting as legal "pushers" of pain meds. Based on lies and half-truths told to doctors that implied few to no patients with "real" pain will become addicted. They spun this with zero clinical proof.

This made Wall Street happy. Oxycontin, Percocet, and other opioid pain relievers made the drug companies millions. Problem was, those profits were borne on the back of now-addicted pati
...more
Andrew
If you're reader of the magazines and websites that make up the American national dialogue – the Atlantics and the Salons and the WaPos and what not – you probably know about this book already, and are well-aware of its central thesis, that the nation's current love affair with opiates is the result not of any of the usual suspects, but a toxic blend of third-world poverty, migration patterns, a culture dependent on quick solutions, capital outflows, and middle-class aspirationism.

The research i
...more
Steven
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Second Edit. And then I'll stop updating this. I finally found the set of interactive graphs that really demonstrate what this book is talking about. Check out this CDC Data Visualization Gallery.. The New York Times reformatted the same data into a more visually appealing format here. The data on New Mexico and rural Utah between 2006 and 2015 are very interesting. And what's happening in Appalachia is scary.


Edit. I updated the link to the CDC website. You can now see the full report yourself.
...more
Kristin Butler
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
After this book was recommended by several people, including public health officials responsible for changing pain guidelines and the Nobel award winning Economist Angus Deaton, I was drawn to read it.

From the minute I started listening (on Audible), I was hooked. This is one of the best current events non-fiction book I have read in the past several years.

The research is meticulous. The writing simple, explanatory, powerful. The importance is timely and relevant. Quinones' ability to connect th
...more
Inga Aksamit
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book fascinating. I'm an oncology nurse who was trained in the era when our attitudes toward pain management were changing. I had no idea how flimsy the research was that we all bought into and I was completely unaware of how pain clinics, which I thought were still providing multi-disciplinary care, had so often become pill mills. The entrepreneurial spirit of the boys from Nayarit is to be commended with their excellent customer service, just in time inventory and delivery service ...more
Philipp Moehring
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Holy shit.

I read this after 'Methland' and it is the perfect follow up. A blog post or article about the similarities would make a lot of sense.

Basically, another book about the hollowing out of the Midwest and Appalachian small towns. Another book about the madness of big pharma and the political power they wield. Another book that makes you hopeless, makes you feel helpless, and think about the wider repercussions of crumbling social fabric.

A bit long winded and maybe too much of an optimis
...more
Stacy Christoffersen
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book tells the whole truth about the opiate epidemic in America - and exactly what happened to my son. I'm mad as hell! All this time, I've been so angry at him, when I really should be mad at Purdue Pharma (corporate drug pushers), the FDA (incompetent idiots) and the stupid Mexican drug pushers. The number one cause of accidental deaths among working age adults is drug overdose. How sad that so many people have lost their lives, or many years of their lives - this was totally avoidable.
Sarah Jaffe
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was incredible. I had only vaguely heard about it and needed something new to audiobook, and wound up having my mind blown.

It's a story of the opioid epidemic told through fascinating characters and a history of capitalism over the past few decades--everything from the disappearance of factory jobs to the retailing of heroin sales to the birth of pharma advertising to the role of Walmart in small towns and so much more.

It occasionally slides into some sort of weird bootstrappy ish wh
...more
Gerry Claes
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Here is a frightening statistic; Drug overdoses, mostly from opiates has surpassed auto fatalities as the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. Most of these deaths are white young people from affluent or middle class America. They are not people from the inner city or hardened drug users. How did this happen? This book tells the story.

Historically, the medical profession knew that opiates were addictive and should only be administered to patients under close supervision and i
...more
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Sam Quinones is a long-time journalist and author of 3 books of narrative nonfiction.

He worked for the LA Times for 10 years. He spent 10 years before that as a freelance journalist in Mexico.

His first book is True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx, published in 2001, a collection of nonfiction stories about drag queens, popsicle-makers, Oaxacan ba
...more
More about Sam Quinones...
“2008:  Drug overdoses, mostly from opiates, surpass auto fatalities as leading cause of accidental death in the United States.” 6 likes
“After more than a decade in which chronic pain was treated with highly addictive medicine, there still was no attempt to bring the studies of pain and addiction together. Specialists in pain and in addiction operated in different worlds.” 5 likes
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