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Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic Hardcover – April 21, 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 414 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of April 2015: The rise of OxyContin addiction and subsequent heroin use has been much in the news lately as we try to make sense of what is happening in suburban and small town America. Sam Quinones’ Dreamland takes a multifaceted approach to the subject, profiling people from all walks of life, ranging from citizens of impoverished Mexican ranchos to young affluent white athletes, all cogs in the wheel of the latest drug epidemic. Unlike the crack cocaine phenomenon of the 1980s, today’s widespread opiate addiction has roots in the prescription pads of certified physicians and the marketing machine of Big Pharma. When the addict, forced by availability and economics, transitions to heroin he is met by a new breed of entrepreneurial drug dealers who are only too happy to take calls and make deliveries. The changing landscape of small town America, along with science, opportunity, shame, and of course greed, all play a role here and to see the puzzle come together, one comprehensible piece at a time, is as fascinating as it is unsettling.-- Seira Wilson

Review

"Best of" lists for 2015 - Amazon.com, Slate, Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, Daily Beast, Seattle Times, Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bloomberg Business, Audible

“The most original writer on Mexico and the border out there.” ―San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

“Over the last 15 years, he has filed the best dispatches about Mexican migration and its effects on the United States and Mexico, bar none.” ―Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Journalist Quinones weaves an extraordinary story, including the personal journeys of the addicted, the drug traffickers, law enforcement, and scores of families affected by the scourge, as he details the social, economic, and political forces that eventually destroyed communities in the American heartland and continues to have a resounding impact.” ―starred review, Booklist

“Quinones' research ensures that there is something legitimately interesting (and frequently horrifying) on every page. A-.” ―Entertainment Weekly

“[A] compelling examination . . . a driven and important narrative.” ―Wall Street Journal

“In Dreamland, former Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones deftly recounts how a flood of prescription pain meds, along with black tar heroin from Nayarit, Mexico, transformed the once-vital blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio, and other American communities into heartlands of addiction. With prose direct yet empathic, he interweaves the stories of Mexican entrepreneurs, narcotics agents, and small-town folks whose lives were upended by the deluge of drugs, leaving them shaking their heads, wondering how they could possibly have resisted.” ―Mother Jones

“Smack is back in the news as heroin use spikes and busts pile up at the border, making Dreamland a timely book. Veteran journalist and storyteller Sam Quinones provides investigative reporting to explain the latest surge. But he also goes way deeper; he tells the social and human stories at the heart of the opiate trade and how it tortures the souls of America and Mexico.” ―Ioan Grillo, author of EL NARCO

Dreamland spreads out like a transnational episode of The Wire, alternately maddening, thrilling, depressing, and with writing as sharp and insightful as a razor blade. You cannot understand our drug war and Mexican immigration to the United States without reading this book.” ―Gustavo Arellano, syndicated columnist ¡Ask a Mexican!

“Quinones is a veteran journalist and expert storyteller long steeped in the demi-monde of Mexican-American bordercrossings. Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic is an intricate jigsaw puzzle piecing together his findings from intensive investigation of the unprecedented spread of heroin addiction throughout the United States over the past two decades . . . Dreamland offers an eye-opening, enlightening and mesmerizing account of one of the most important stories of the last few decades . . . Quinones is a master storyteller, with a knack of bringing hundreds of characters to life . . . Dreamland stands as a model of meticulous investigative reporting providing important insights not only the current opiate epidemic but also into the sometimes negative symbiosis between our country and our neighbors to the south.” ―New York Journal of Books

"Quinones recounts individual tales--from junkies in Portland, Ore., to pill mills in Appalachia to entrepreneurial heroin traffickers from small-town Mexico--to describe a “catastrophic synergy” in which over-prescription of opioid painkillers begets addicts, many of whom then turn to heroin, which is cheaper and just as ubiquitous." ―Best Books of 2015, Boston Globe

“Unflinching . . . compellingly investigated.” ―Kirkus

"The path of heroin from America’s urban slums to its trim suburban subdivisions is traced by a Los Angeles Times reporter. Quinones’ deeply researched and readable book says well-heeled addicts got hooked first on pain-killing medications like OxyContin--but then switched to much cheaper Mexican heroin, feeding a problem across the nation." ―Best Books of 2015, St. Louis Dispatch

“Fascinating . . . a harrowing, eye-opening look at two sides of the same coin, the legal and illegal faces of addictive painkillers and their insidious power.” ―Publishers Weekly

“A haunting tale of opiate abuse in the heartland . . . Using expert storytelling and exhaustive detail, Quinones chronicles the perfect storm of circumstances that cleared the way for the Mexican narcotic to infiltrate our small and midsize communities over the last two decades.” ―Kansas City Star

“Fascinating.” ―Salon

"You won’t find this story told better anywhere else, from the economic hollowing-out of the middle class to the greedy and reckless marketing of pharmaceutical opiates to the remarkable entrepreneurial industry of the residents of the obscure Mexican state of Nayarit . . . Dreamland--true crime, sociology, and exposé--illuminates a catastrophe unfolding all around us, right now." ―Laura Miller’s 10 Favorite Books of 2015, Slate

“The must-read book about America's heroin crisis . . . Quinones combines thorough research with superlative narrative skills to produce a horrifying but compulsively readable book about opiate addiction . . . a book that every American should read. And I state that without reservation . . . This book is as much of a page-turner as a good mystery, as well as being thoroughly and disturbingly illuminating about a national crisis.” ―Christian Science Monitor

“A gripping read and hard-hitting account of a ubiquitous plague that has flown under the radar.” ―Portland Business Journal

“Quinones's absorbing narrative is deep in research, on-site reporting, personal interviews and insight. Spanning the central U.S. and crossing the Mexican border, Dreamland adroitly unsnarls the tangled business that feeds a growing lust for chemical euphoria and relief.” ―Shelf Awareness

"Every so often I read a work of narrative nonfiction that makes me want to get up and preach: Read this true story! Such is Sam Quinones’ astonishing work of reporting and writing, Dreamland: the True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic." ―Seattle Times

“Everybody should read this book. Everybody.” ―Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

“An important frame of reference for understanding America’s opiate epidemic.” ―Portland Press Herald

"[A] powerful investigation into the explosion of heroin abuse in suburban America that combines skillful reporting and strong research with a superb narrative." ―The Spectator

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; F First Edition edition (April 21, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620402505
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620402504
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (414 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a thoroughly researched book and I enjoyed Mr. Quinones's writing style. I was able to get clear mental pictures of the places and people he describes. I had no idea of the heroin trade and while I was aware that heroin addiction had spread to the heartland alarmingly, the complex system of the cartels was certainly eye opening. I also was vaguely aware of the 'pill mills' going on in Florida and other states primarily in the eastern part of the US, after reading this book I can say I not only know but am alarmed at how easy it was to get a Medicaid card and rake in big bucks selling Oxycontin on taxpayer money. I also agree that Big Pharma hid the dangers of Oxycontin and went ahead with a big push to doctors to prescribe it.
On the other side of the coin, I have suffered from Fibromyalgia for sixteen years and the premise that pain can be controlled solely by physical therapy, nutrition, counseling, acupuncture without medication is bunk. It might help in the short run, but at the end of the day you are still in pain. Only those who have chronic pain can fully understand what others in chronic pain are going through. I do not take Oxycontin because when it was given to me as a trial I recognized its potential to be a problem, I had the unwanted and unneeded euphoria and after it wears off the pain is +1000 than what it was before. I chose to stick with my regular medication, tramadol. As much as I definitely agree that the wild and irresponsible prescribing of opioids needed some strong checking, unless you have lived a day in the life of someone who is in terrible pain, denying pain control is a cruelty in my humble opinion. Not everyone who needs pain medications is taking them for recreational fun. If Big Pharma or pain doctors came out with something that could ease pain that has no interest to those merely looking for a buzz, believe me a lot of us would gladly use it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been immersed in American cardiology for many years with little awareness that many thousands-- often young and privileged-- have been dying of 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, criminal behavior by Big Pharma, the easy penetration of Mexican heroin into the U.S., the economic desperation of Mexican small town culture, highly effective just-in -time heroin marketing techniques and even low pay at Walmart. This is insightful sociology told in the form of brief biographies. While sometimes repetitive, the overall effect of the book is devastating. This should be required reading for health professionals, educators, the parents of teenagers, law enforcement officials and legislators. The problem is far from over. This book will shock many awake.
The author has done brave work -- the Waltons, Pharmacy execs, and the cartels will not be happy readers.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Yes, there is an addiction problem--but why does the author not go deeply into the other side, how necessary opioids are for some people; that there are people who are NOT addicts who truly need these medications in order to live without suffering? There are medical situations and conditions that cannot be cured and without opioids, those in chronic severe pain would live with pure torture, day in and day out. It is cruel and inhumane to deny those people the only form of medication we currently have to help them, and cruel to make them go through the unbelievably difficult hoops they have to jump through to get a prescription legally. And a doctor willing to work with chronic pain sufferers is becoming more and more difficult. This is a real issue, a real problem, just as valid as the addiction problem, and these suffering people are completely innocent. They don't want to take opioids, they don't want the high, they surely don't want the pain. But life without proper medication for severe pain is simply inhumane. Somebody needs to write more about THIS problem, not just the addiction problem, because it is very real.
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Format: Hardcover
This book tells one of the most important stories of our time. This is especially true if you live an area where pills and heroin have destroyed countless lives. No other book tells this story so completely and so fluidly. Buy this book and be enlightened.
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Format: Hardcover
If you want to read one book this year that weaves together the forces shaping our culture today, this is it. Sam Quinones is not only a master storyteller, but also possesses the sharp intellect necessary to weave together such a complex topic in the medical, social and criminal realms. Though not a quick read, this became my go-to book when I wanted to escape from my work for the day, because it can actually be relaxing to have someone explain so clearly what is wrong with a picture that seemed so fuzzy before. How did we get to this place, where accomplished, rich, smart people like Seymour Hoffman end up dead on the floor of an NYC condo from an overdose? Where white kids in the Midwest who were once successful athletes or scholars don't make it to their mid-twenties because they turn up dead with needles dangling from their arms? Quinones does a great job of laying blame where it is due without recrimination, leaving room for the reader to develop their own simmering anger. The medical establishment's blind adherence to the data fed them by a pharmaceutical company would be laughable if it weren't so true to form and so devastating in its consequence. If the AMA does not come out with a public service announcement on this issue, shame on them and shame on the medical schools that continue to generate so many physicians who are woefully under-educated on both the addictive potential and harmful side effects of many drugs.

There are many other lessons in the book, including the fact that the Xalisco boys from Mexico who fanned the heroin epidemic across the country were by in large peaceful purveyors, treating their customers (and everyone else) well.
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