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Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  4,793 Ratings  ·  772 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
May 18, 2015 Perry 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
Denny Bales
May 02, 2015 Denny Bales 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 Kris 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
Nancy Oakes
May 27, 2015 Nancy Oakes 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
Apr 23, 2015 Lindsay 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
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
Jun 18, 2015 Nick 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
Diane Yannick
Oct 19, 2016 Diane Yannick 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 Jeanette 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 25, 2015 Mel rated it really liked it
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
Mar 16, 2015 Kevin 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
Jan 18, 2016 Gwen 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
May 14, 2015 Jenna 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
Apr 30, 2015 Terri 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
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
Tamara Hala
May 20, 2015 Tamara Hala 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.
Jan 28, 2017 Steven 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.
Kristin Butler
Jan 26, 2016 Kristin Butler 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
Inga Aksamit
Dec 02, 2015 Inga Aksamit 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 Philipp Moehring 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
Gerry Claes
Mar 27, 2016 Gerry Claes 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
Ashley Montulli
Jul 12, 2016 Ashley Montulli rated it really liked it
I have a brother who was in a horrible mountain biking accident over 15 years ago. He was prescribed pain medication, of course, to heal from his injuries. I basically never saw that brother again. He became severely addicted to opiates and never recovered.

Suffice to say, I am interested in the opiate epidemic in our country. It is complicated, but it also isn't.

Sam Quinones takes us back those two decades when prescription pain medication was just beginning to grow, starting with a town called
Jan 11, 2016 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Like "The Unwinding" in 2014, and "Ghettoside" in 2015, this will likely be the nonfiction book that I annoy you about finally reading in 2016. "Dreamland" is told through multiple angles of how a town (the example is Portsmouth, OH, but the argument is clear in showing that this could've been any one of dozens of American cities) struggles under the combined weights of simultaneous economic depression, opiate prescription-and-addiction, and influx of high potency black tar heroin from t
Feb 11, 2015 Becca rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley
A fascinating, complex, devastating look at the opiate epidemic in middle America. It's a story that hasn't been told, and it gets an exceptionally detailed treatment in Sam Quinones' book.

The story is mostly centered around a group of dealers out of a single town in Mexico who have transformed the opiate market. It's a fascinating, nearly unbelievable story. Of particular interest was the extended focus on the relatively new phenomenon of pain as an indicator of well-being, measured alongside v
Nov 06, 2015 Aaron rated it liked it
This was like the War and Peace of opiate addiction. To say Sam Q. needs an editor and an abridged version is like saying I'm not great in relationships. Kind of understated is all I'm saying. I get that your a journalist but you're no longer getting paid by the word. And we are adults so we get it the first time but he restated everything in every way imaginable. The best part of the book was Perdue Pharmacy's testimony that , "It's an extreme anti-opioid discriminatory animus or zealotry known ...more
Stacy Christoffersen
Apr 30, 2015 Stacy Christoffersen 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.
Jo Ann
Feb 22, 2017 Jo Ann rated it really liked it
Okay - At the request of Lisa W.R., my review: This could be a 5 star. I didn't want to read this's not pleasant, it's not fun, and it broke my heart. BUT: I absolutely felt I had to read it, as I had too many nagging questions about WHY, in a nation such as ours, we are at the top of drug addiction? I just didn't get it. I get it, now. Sam Quinones, who had to leave his position at the LA Times to write this book, is thorough and amazing. He tells the reader exactly why we are on such ...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 about Sam Quinones...

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“2008:  Drug overdoses, mostly from opiates, surpass auto fatalities as leading cause of accidental death in the United States.” 6 likes
“OxyContin is a simple pill. It contains only one drug: oxycodone, a painkiller that Germans synthesized in 1916 from thebaine, an opium derivative. Molecularly, oxycodone is similar to heroin.” 5 likes
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