Dreamland by Sam Quinones, review by Sarah Bagby
When my 25-year-old daughter told me that one of her high school acquaintances who showed so much promise became addicted to heroin, I wondered how that happened. Veteran journalist and storyteller Sam Quinones explains it all in his gripping book. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.
Quinones’ book is at once the history of opiates, the success of the first marketing campaign for prescription drugs launched by Purdue pharma for the miracle pain drug Oxycontin, and the entrepreneurial ingenuity of a small Mexican county’s distribution of the cheap and potent black tar heroin--mainly to suburban white kids in the Midwest.
Quinones starts with a bird's eye view, showing how definitions of pain in the medical field haphazardly led to addictive pain medication being over prescribed. Then opportunistic drug dealers simply shifted addicts’ allegiance from prescription opiates to the cheaper black tar heroin, contained in easy to conceal balloons and practically delivered to their front door.
When Quinones drills down to the individuals affected by this epidemic, he leaves no stone unturned. From the stories of the addicts and their concerned families, to a small community hospital whose addiction treatment becomes overburdened--when the first patient came in the doctor on call thought the nurses had it wrong, surely there was no heroin use in this area--to the investigators, and the delivery drivers for the heroin producers, Quinones tells a gripping and at times unbelievable story.
Dreamland is a master work of investigative journalism that emphasizes the importance of a free press in democratic society.
It recently received the National Book Critic Circle award, bestowed by 700 voting critics, an honor of great prestige.
Sarah's review first appeared on 89.1 KMUW. Listen to it HERE.