Dreamland: You've Got to Try This Shit

You might find it ironic that I'm pushing a book about drugs this hard, but Sam Quinones non-fiction tour-de-force Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic is truly addictive . . . you won't be able to put it down, you won't be able to go a day without reading it, and you'll do anything to make some time for it-- if you can't afford it, then I recommend throwing a brick through someone's car window and stealing the change from their ashtray, or perhaps you could "find" some copper pipe and sell it for scrap; the book moves fast, short chapter spiraling through various settings in America and Mexico, and by the end you'll know more than you need about heroin production, heroin distribution, pill mills, the history of pain management, the Oxycontin economy, the gutting of industry in the American heartland, methods of rehabilitation, and methods of narcotic policing (and I'm giving this book Dave's Highest Rating in the Universe-- which is certainly a suspect rating due to my tendency towards hyperbole-- but I guarantee that it's better than all the other "land" things that I love: Methland and Adventureland and even Copland . . . although I do love Copland, especially when a half-deaf Sylvester Stallone portentously shoots the bulls-eye at the carnival) but if you don't have the time to read the book, here are a few of the things I learned:

1) black tar heroin comes from the smallest rural Mexican towns, called rancheros, mainly in the state of Nayarit;

2) nothing is harder to kick than the morphine molecule, and while you are addicted you will be constipated, and when you suffer withdrawal, you will get "ferocious diarrhea";

3) a perfect storm in the '90's kicked off America's mass addiction to opiates: health insurance stopped paying for multi-disciplinary treatments for pain, pharmaceutical companies lobbied to convince physicians that opiate based pain-killers were not addictive, and-- in the name of efficiency-- doctors took on huge caseloads of patients and there was a "defenestration of the physician's authority and clinical experience";

4) if you liked "The Chicken Man" from Breaking Bad, then you'll be glad to know there was a real version (named Polla) who, besides being a wealthy heroin kingpin, worked as a cook at a Mexican restaurant;

5) one of the best ways for a junkie to pay for heroin is with Levi's 501 jeans, which are coveted in the Mexican rancheros-- they are more valuable than cash;

6) it was really hard for addicts to hate the Xalisco boys, who were nothing like the archetypal drug dealer-- they were friendly, sometimes even personable and charming, they always offered "deals" to their users and they delivered, so people didn't have to hang around back alleys, and they never cut the product-- because they were paid on salary . . . the Xalisco boys prided themselves on customer service, they generally avoided violence, and when other folks from the rancheros opened up new "cells," which are like franchises, there would be friendly price-competition, or the cells would use junkies as "guides" and move on to new towns and cities, so they could avoid the gang-warfare that is traditionally associated with drug-dealing;

7) Chimayo, New Mexico is the Lowrider Capital of the World, and it has powerful cherry-red heirloom chiles, but it might be most famous for it's insanely high rate of heroin/opiate addiction, which has gone on for generations;

8) the number of Ohioans dead from drug overdoses between 2003 and 2008 was 50 percent higher than all the U.S. soldiers who died in the entire Iraq War;

9) the destigmatization of opiate drugs was based on academic papers without much real evidence (Porter and Jick is the most famous of these) but drug companies were looking for some way to green-light all their new opiate based medication;

10) in a three month period in 2012, eleven percent of Ohioans were prescribed opiates . . . one in every ten people in Ohio is legally on an opiate based medication, and-- because of this-- one of the best places to score heroin is not New York City or Los Angeles, it's Columbus, Ohio . . . and while the book presents a lot of alarming investigation, drug companies are getting the message, and making pain-killers that can't be smoked or snorted, and doctors are prescribing them less, and in Portsmouth, Ohio (where the book begins) while there are still junkies and hookers and dealers, there is also " a confident, muscular culture of recovery . . . a community slowly patching itself."

No comments:

A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.