Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
It is now 100 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, 30,000-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 think they are. Addiction is not what we think it is. And the drug war has very different motives to the ones we have seen on our TV screens for so long.
In Chasing the Scream, Hari reveals his discoveries entirely through the stories of people across the world whose lives have been transformed by this war. They range from a transsexual crack dealer in Brooklyn searching for her mother, to a teenage hit-man in Mexico searching for a way out. It begins with Hari's discovery that at the birth of the drug war, Billie Holiday was stalked and killed by the man who launched this crusade - and it ends with the story of a brave doctor who has led his country to decriminalize every drug, from cannabis to crack, with remarkable results.
Chasing the Scream lays bare what we really have been chasing in our century of drug war - in our hunger for drugs, and in our attempt to destroy them. This audiobook will challenge and change how you think about one of the most controversial - and consequential - questions of our time.
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|Listening Length||14 hours and 10 minutes|
|Narrator||Tim Gerard Reynolds|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||January 20, 2015|
|Publisher||Audible Studios for Bloomsbury|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #6,019 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#8 in Social Public Policy
#11 in Criminology (Audible Books & Originals)
#35 in Government Social Policy
Reviewed in the United States on March 20, 2016
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Hari set off confused, frustrated with a view of the filthy scum littering our culture who are addicts but was tugged bt one question: why was the War on Drugs not working? He spent years researching, traveling the world, interviewing everyone from Billie Holiday's godson to the president of Uruguay. Each meeting raised more questions.
"Chasing The Scream" will make you think; will make you shocked; will bring tears and will make you feel used. Johann Hari went back to The Harrison Act of 1913, researched Prohibition of Alcohol and the changes that occurred after FDR repealed it in 1933. This is a book that could save hundreds of thousands of lives, could save billions in annual tax dollars and should be read by everyone for informed voting. Colorado and Washington have already ceded the War On Drugs. More is coming. It!s your job to be informed.
Using drugs is only a symptom of suffering, and we have to reach the reasons that make addicts want to be outside of their heads much of the time. You can stop using drugs for a while, but if you don't solve the problems and pain you have in your mind, the pain will come back. We have to work on the trauma in your life, and only then can you change the way you deal with the pain.
But this is only the first layer of support for addicts, and not the most important. The UN has a strong policy on criminalization of drugs; the United States funds it world wide. In 1913 the USA passed The Harrison Act. In 1933, President Roosevelt repealed prohibition of alcohol for the tax revenue, to control gang wars on the streets (think Al Capone, Chicago and the St Valentine's Day massacre). The man in charge of the Federal Bureau of Prohibition, Harry Anslinger, saw that his job and department were soon on the chopping block so Anslinger found a way to not only keep his department but to increase his political power. The War on Drugs became intensified.
Addiction is an expression of despair, and the best way to deal with despair is to offer a better life, where the addict doesn't feel the need to anesthetize himself anymore. Giving rewards, rather than making threats, is the path; congratulate them instead of humiliating them. Give them options. Help them to build a life. This is where the support of our government and our culture is incredibly important. And sadly lacking. Addicts want to be a part of the society. We cannot tell them to behave as a normal citizen and then deprive them of a role in society: having a job, having work, having a salary, having dignity. The aim should be to give them something to lose in a life where loss has been the status quo.
It occurs to Hari that this philosophy is opposite of the prohibitionist approach. In the drug war, we guarantee addicts will find it almost impossible to work again, by marking them with the Scarlet letter of a criminal record. They are forced into breaking the law in a perpetual cycle controled by organized crime. After the drug war, we should make it easier to employ recovering addict's, with subsidies – (tax incentives to employers is one of Mr. Hari's suggestions) because we understand that this will keep them from relapsing far more effectively than the threat of being caged.
To some Johann Hari's much cited thesis seems like common sense. Look at the Alcohol Prohibition from the Harrison Act until 1933. Citizens died from bath tub gin. Organized Crime and gang wars killed hundreds of thousands to control the street sales. The police and government had no control; no quality and safety control; no revenue from taxes.
In 1933 President Roosevelt repealed Prohibition to generate tax revenue. Additinal results: Alcoholism went down. Deaths from poisoned bathtub gin dissapeard; the gangs lost all control of the industry and street, or "turf" war slayings came to a brief end.
Brief? Yes. Why? Because Anslinger turned the control of drug trafficking over to gangsters very quickly.
The end of prohibition. But because Director Harry Anslinger switched the US Dept of Prohibition from alcohol to drugs, in order to save his department, the deaths, escalation of use and gang control moved from alcohol to drugs. Today it's not Al Capone. You know them: Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, Zetas, cartels, gang controlled streets. It isn't the sidewalks they're killing people to control.
The War on Drugs has lasted now for 101 years. 7 people die every hour in drug related deaths. More than 75% are related to gang deaths. It's aimed at African Americans and Latinos. There are more blacks in prison on drug charges today than there were black slaves 180 years ago. Overtime for police doubles the annual salary for police. Confusion in the public based on propaganda about prescription drugs frightens and frustrates citizens.Slogans and training for our kids that fit on bumper stickers and a public who is taught to hate addicts is so much less than we deserve; to see them as the enemy of the people. Everyone wins through solvency and wealth. Except no one is winning.
Almost 6 years ago the government of Portugal decriminalized all drugs. This was based on the model that the war on drugs was creating more crime, more use, more overdose, and more death. In the years since heroin was decriminalized in Portugal, it's use has been halved there – while in the United States, with the drug war continues, it has doubled. The European monitoring center for drugs and drug addiction (EMCDDA) and the British Journal of criminology, both of whom have a no horse in this race, have been shocked by the statistical results in their research. Hari's interviews and experiences in Portugal are astonishing.
Children aged 15 to 16 in Portugal reported one of the lowest lifetime prevalence of cannabis use in Western Europe – 13%. The cocaine use is almost have the EU average. It is slightly down since decriminalization started in 1999, 2.5% of sixteen to eighteen -year-olds used heroin by 2005, after six years of this model of decriminalization, it was down to 1.8%. The report also stresses that the new policy has brought a transformation to the lives of people who never once touched a drug. It was "very common" before the end of the drug war that heroin addict's would rob people to get their next fix but the "crimes related to drug consumption are now finished. The crimes on the street level related to drug consumption do not happen anymore. " Addicts are all either on methadone, Suboxone, in treatment, or recovering, so "they don't need to rob cars are us old people. " The report ads: "this is a complete change. " (EMCDDA source).
This change has caused another transformation – in how people see the police. "People in poor neighborhoods no longer see the police as enemies; that is most important. That is different."
The report is careful to add one caveat: these results are not due to the change in the law alone. The heroin use in the 1980s and 1990s was so widespread and so damaging that it spurred a back lash among [young] people who look at their siblings and resolved never to follow those particular track marks to disaster. So some of these changes would have happened without the transformation in the drug laws – but not all of it. And almost everyone reading this essay has personal knowledge of someone addicted or killed by a drug lord.
João Figueira, chief of the Lisbon, Portugal drug squad, describes himself as "very conservative". To quote at first, he says, when the laws were changed, "the left-wing said let's do this and the right-wing said no, no, no – and in fact on the results we have, there is no kind of ideological [debate anymore] because it has nothing to do with ideology. What happened here worked," he explains. "What happened here was a good result and the statistics we have prove it. There is no ideology in this… so everyone, conservatives or Socialists, accepts the situation." Since the drug policy revolution, Portugal has had two governments on the left, and two governments of the right. All have kept the decriminalization in place. None of the political parties wants to go back.
This alternative works. And the best proof is virtually nobody in Portugal is arguing for return to the old ways.
The country of Uruguay has adopted this policy and taken it even farther, ignoring the scare tactics from the United States by legalizing drugs on three tiers. Uruguay's President says, "We are doing nothing that the USA is not doing with their laws on marijuana except our food and drug administration has TOTAL control, one department controls it all where in the USA, like the days of Slave Laws, it's a matter of State to State. And State Rights brought about the US Civil
How many of us know someone whose life has been strongly affected by The War On Drugs? We all got DARE in 5th grade. ("What was that? Drugs Are Ruining Everything?" Our teachers got a free period and we got a T-shirt.) We got Nancy Reagan's slogan, "Just Say No." Teachers try to encourage open dialogue but that fear of criminalization is always there. We got slogans and platitudes from our teachers and politicians. "This is your brain on drugs." And the first time we smoked pot we learned that everyone was lying to us. Pot wasn't evil as they told us; it was as though they made it all up. Anyone who uses a substance to the point of intoxication more than once every few weeks is killing some form of pain. Something has to be done because one in four of our children will be destroyed by drugs.
Just how much more proof do we need that The War On Drugs isn't working? What's the difference between this and Al Capone controlling the liquor industry? Al Capone and his colleagues were adding vanilla extract to ethanol. Today heroin's being cut with Ajax, pencil shavings, cardboard-anything that can be crushed to look like heroin. Veins collapse due to additives, just as livers fail from rubbing alcohol.
Johann Hari's book opens our eyes to a lot of this.
It's time to think and re-think. In this case it may be best to throw the baby out with the bathwater because real babies are dying.
"Chasing The Scream" is not just brilliant and important, it is essential.
But I do feel I need to put a bit of a damper on all the glowing 5-star reviews here. As a neuroscientist and someone who has thought about drugs, drug policy, and the drug war a lot, there are some serious issues here that I haven't seen pointed out in some other reviews.
First, Hari is neither a scientist, nor a historian, nor a physician - and it shows. The book is essentially one long anecdote, and hard numbers and statistics are few and far between. It could be argued that this isn't the point of the book, but nonetheless it is a shortcoming when an author purports to be documenting the facts and real-world outcomes of decriminalization/legalization.
Second, I found that despite his 3-year, 30,000-mile odyssey to explore the war on drugs, ultimately Hari still seemed naive and poorly informed about it all. By nearly page 300, he is still dumbfounded and incredulous at the idea that alcohol might in fact be among the most harmful substances in use today - it all seems so "counterintuitive" to him. These are the kind of numbers/findings that anyone who takes this topic seriously should have found in week one, not the kind of thing that one should be doubting with a gut reaction after years of research into the topic.
A similar example is Hari's hand-wringing and agonizing over the idea that his precious nieces and nephews might be harmed by smoking a joint (as if they aren't doing it anyway). Here Hari cites a deeply flawed and widely criticized scientific article claiming that marijuana use in adolescence "damages IQ for life" and brings up the example of a friend who smoked a lot and now thinks it harmed him for life. There just doesn't seem to be any context here - as David Nutt (interviewed in the book) has pointed out, horse-riding causes way more brain damage than drugs in the UK, but no one thinks of it as a scourge of the youth that should be fretted over. Here in North America it's concussions from football and hockey, which again hardly raise an eyebrow. And look at the way we let our children eat, for crying out loud, and the ensuing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. That anyone who has thought about these issues in depth is actually wasting time worrying about young people smoking a joint is shocking to me.
Third is the snide treatment of Timothy Leary. Hari spends page after page treating everyone he comes across in his journey with the utmost compassion. Whether they have lived as thieves, murderers, torturers for drug cartels, etc., all of them are portrayed as victims of an unfair system, unfair childhoods, unfair what-have-you – and this is a fair enough viewpoint with much truth to it. But when it comes to Timothy Leary, Hari's bleeding heart is suddenly dry. Leary is dismissed in less than a page as a psychopath who scared all the 'normal' people and ruined the whole decriminalization party for everyone else. No matter that Leary himself suffered from alcohol addiction and the traumatic suicide of his first wife; no matter that without his proselytizing it's very unlikely any of us would be having this conversation today; no matter that he originally advocated gentle decriminalization and a licensing system so that everyone could use substances responsibly and is pretty much the grandfather of the modern movement; no matter that for these altogether minimal actions he was hounded by the government for years and incarcerated in a maximum security prison under a life sentence for possession of a trivial amount of marijuana.
In short, when it came to the material I knew best (certain aspects of the neuroscience and history), Hari seemed grossly uninformed and/or naive - and this makes me question how much I can trust his reporting and assessment of other issues about which I know less.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book and it is well worth reading for the compelling stories within. But I disagree with the majority opinion here that this is some kind of flawless masterpiece. It's a great read, and full of great stories, but this is not scholarship by any stretch; it is at best journalism, and probably better described as a personal memoir. That doesn't necessarily detract at all from its value but the reader should know what they're getting into.
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Thought-provoking and 'against the grain' of how we are naturally lead to opine about drug dealers, users, drug enforcement, and policy. I thoroughly enjoyed the book in the most meaningful way possible. I don't think I thought badly or negatively of those affected by addiction, but I will admit that I felt swayed by the biases of the media. I cannot count how many people I have reiterated the experiment of 'Rat Park' to people, or the tragic stories told by victims themselves. Listen to the podcast and read the book!
Reading this stirred up a huge amount of anger as I realised that almost everything I'd been taught about drugs and addiction was wrong and causing genuine pain and suffering in the world, and this was all motivated more or less by the prejudice of one man. It brings home how the history of modern drug policy in the world is a litany of knee-jerk reactions and misinformed decision making, often motivated by blind hatred and a criminal lack of understanding.
This is a book that I think everyone should read. The world would be a better place if we had a greater understanding of this subject.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone seeking a detailed historical account of the War On Drugs.