Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic” as Want to Read:
Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  12,133 Ratings  ·  1,817 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
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
The spectacular public service reporting Sam Quinones does in this nonfiction is so detailed and many-faceted that it left me feeling a little voyeuristic, not having been visited by the scourge of opioid addiction myself. Good lord, I kept thinking, so this is what we are dealing with. I knew something was different, I just didn’t have any conception of the size, scope, method, and means of this problem.

Quinones starts his story in the early 1980s when the first rancho Xalisco marketers came up
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
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
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quinones weaves together two themes to help explain today’s opiate and opioid epidemic. He uses the term opiate throughout to refer to both so I will too. Theme one is the story of the dramatic spike in the use of painkillers, particularly oxycodone. This culminated in pill mills that devastated many communities. Theme two is the spread of black tar heroin taking advantage of those already addicted to prescription painkillers. The heroin comes from a Mexican sourcing and distribution network dub ...more
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: stela-eða-láni
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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.
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
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
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
Peter Mcloughlin
This is the source to read if you want to understand the origins and history of the opiate crisis we are now experiencing in the US. Investigative reporter Sam Quinones covers how a single town in Mexico in tandem with the medical revolution (and I don't mean that in a good way) in the use of Opioids like Oxycotin and aggressive marketing of these drugs by Pharma companies like Purdue have lead to crisis where overdoses outnumber car crash deaths in the US. lots of bad behavior by many actors bu ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

"They say it takes a [village] to raise a child . . . it takes a community to battle addiction."

Quinones, an investigative journalist, fashions a non-fiction novel of sorts that touches on a hot-button topic. How bad are things? The oft-quoted 2008 statistic is that drug overdoses - usually involving opiates - surpassed car crash fatalities as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.

He examines the origin and connections between pain medicine (mostly represented by OxyContin)
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
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
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
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
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, nonfiction
When I started reading this book, I was afraid that it would be a lot like Methland, but it's substantially deeper and more worthwhile. Quinones tracks the personal and market dynamics that brought first opioid addiction and then a full-on heroin epidemic to America's small cities.

He presents a complete history of how Purdue Pharmaceuticals introduced OxyContin and convinced doctors that it was not only safe to prescribe, but immoral to withhold it from chronic pain patients. Unfortunately, all
Darlene Nichols
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
A comprehensive history of the opioid and heroin epidemic in America. It is a fascinating and sobering look at the tangled web of addiction among those least expected, both on the using end as well as the supply end. 4 stars because parts were redundant. But, maybe that’s a reflection of the lives taken over by addiction. Same stories, different towns all over the US.
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.
Tamara H
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Drunk on Books: July 2018 1 2 Jun 25, 2018 04:58AM  
  • Tell It to the World: International Justice and the Secret Campaign to Hide Mass Murder in Kosovo
  • This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America
  • Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld
  • American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America's Deadliest Drug Epidemic
  • The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail
  • Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World
  • On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City
  • The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution
  • Repeat Offender: Sin City's Most Prolific Criminal and the Cop Who Caught Him
  • A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel: Murder, Money, and an Epic Power Struggle in China
  • Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend
  • Getting Screwed: Sex Workers and the Law
  • Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
  • El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency
  • Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel
  • Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West
  • Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
  • The Age of Anxiety: A History of America's Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers
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 about Sam Quinones

Nonfiction Deals

  • Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany
    $15.99 $3.99
  • The Monster of Florence
    $10.99 $2.99
  • The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob
    $9.99 $1.99
  • April 1865 (P.S.)
    $11.74 $1.99
  • Jesus Is ______: Find a New Way to Be Human
    $7.99 $0.99
  • Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Lab 257
    $8.74 $1.99
  • How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Girl in the Woods: A Memoir
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype--and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The Last Lecture
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
    $12.74 $1.99
  • Not Tonight, Honey: Wait 'Til I'm A Size 6
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Dog Years
    $13.74 $1.99
  • The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology
    $12.99 $2.99
  • An Appetite For Wonder: The Making Of A Scientist
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
    $27.99 $2.99
  • Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Sex Object
    $9.74 $2.99
  • Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Dakotas)
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Restless: Because You Were Made for More
    $7.49 $1.99
  • Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman
    $10.24 $1.99
  • The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions
    $16.99 $2.99
  • Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
    $13.99 $3.99
  • Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Pukka: The Pup After Merle
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion
    $16.99 $3.99
  • Denial [Movie Tie-in]: Holocaust History on Trial
    $11.99 $1.99
  • A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies, and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment
    $11.99 $3.99
  • Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System
    $9.99 $3.99
  • All Creatures Great and Small  (All Creatures Great and Small, #1)
    $17.99 $2.99
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Cheaper by the Dozen
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
    $19.99 $1.99
  • Buddhist Boot Camp
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Flour: A Baker's Collection of Spectacular Recipes
    $21.99 $3.99
  • The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day
    $12.99 $3.99
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Do the Work
    $4.99 $1.49
  • The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century
    $4.99 $1.99
  • I Suck at Girls
    $10.74 $1.99
  • The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women
    $14.99 $2.99
  • A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives
    $18.99 $1.99
  • Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It
    $7.24 $1.99
  • The World's Last Night: And Other Essays
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Tracks: One Woman's Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Life
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society
    $13.24 $2.99
  • Grace, Not Perfection (with Bonus Content): Celebrating Simplicity, Embracing Joy
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Promise and the Dream: The Untold Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. And Robert F. Kennedy
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Why We Run: A Natural History
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
    $12.99 $2.99
“The front of the brain has to develop through mistakes. But the first reaction of the addicted person is to head back to the family: ‘Will you rescue me?’ Whatever the person’s rescued from, there’s no learning. There’s no experiences, no frontal brain development. They’re doing well and then some idea comes into their head and they’re off a cliff. It may not be a decision to use. Most relapse comes not from the craving for the drug. It comes from this whole other level of unmanageability, putting myself in compromising situations, or being dishonest, being lazy—being a fifteen-year-old.” 9 likes
“2008:  Drug overdoses, mostly from opiates, surpass auto fatalities as leading cause of accidental death in the United States.” 6 likes
More quotes…