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Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

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New York Times Bestseller It is now one hundred 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, thirty-thousand-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 th New York Times Bestseller It is now one hundred 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, thirty-thousand-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 book will challenge and change how you think about one of the most controversial--and consequential--questions of our time.


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New York Times Bestseller It is now one hundred 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, thirty-thousand-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 th New York Times Bestseller It is now one hundred 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, thirty-thousand-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 book will challenge and change how you think about one of the most controversial--and consequential--questions of our time.

30 review for Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    ok. So, I am a harm reduction activist and an addictions researcher. I write those "dry sociological studies" that Hari enjoys rolling his eyes at. I basically hate-read this book out of a sense of professional obligation. Not because of the story Hari told, but for the atrociously bad way he told it. I hated this book a whole lot. This is a sensationalist and problematic book. It has been touted as some kind of game changer in the conversation about addiction, but none of the information in this ok. So, I am a harm reduction activist and an addictions researcher. I write those "dry sociological studies" that Hari enjoys rolling his eyes at. I basically hate-read this book out of a sense of professional obligation. Not because of the story Hari told, but for the atrociously bad way he told it. I hated this book a whole lot. This is a sensationalist and problematic book. It has been touted as some kind of game changer in the conversation about addiction, but none of the information in this book is new, and Hari didn't even bother to fact check some of the things he's saying about certain scholars. This book is overtly anti-intellectual. Hari frequently attributes thoughts and motivations to people who are long dead--people whose thoughts and motivations he has no access to. It's also clumsily written, his only rhetorical move apparently is the section break with a cold narrative opening. He uses this technique with tiring frequency in the text. But, above all, the biggest problem with this book is that there is nothing new in it. This is not "investigative journalism". It's about as investigative as interviewing a handful of physicists and then writing a book about how I "discovered" calculus. This book regurgitates messaging that harm reduction activists have been offering for years and years, and then packages it in a disingenuous veneer of disbelief and personal bias. But, honestly, can we expect much more from a person who had to give back his Orwell because he plagiarized the piece that won the prize? (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann...) I could MAYBE recommend this text for someone who is completely ignorant of contemporary conversations around drug use. If you can explain the public health impact of a needle exchange, though, this book is beneath you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    Essential reading for humans. I'm all for anything that refreshes in the reader a feeling that compassion is urgent. Here in this book we have strong evidence, all over the world, of a compassion-starved state of emergency, of antiquated laws driving people into isolation, ostracizing them and pushing them further from essential human connection. I've never before listened to the argument that we should legalise all drugs, mostly because the person who's brought it up only wants to legalise drugs Essential reading for humans. I'm all for anything that refreshes in the reader a feeling that compassion is urgent. Here in this book we have strong evidence, all over the world, of a compassion-starved state of emergency, of antiquated laws driving people into isolation, ostracizing them and pushing them further from essential human connection. I've never before listened to the argument that we should legalise all drugs, mostly because the person who's brought it up only wants to legalise drugs so they themselves can take drugs, and when we have this conversation these people are often on drugs also, and they superficially quote some single bullshit article that they read once because the title of it reassured them that they wouldn't have to change their opinion of anything by the end. Just like Russell Brand, these people give good ideas a bad rap, false and unwanted ambassadors that manage to make common sense unseemly! Anyways, this book is the opposite. The journey of one man who began to research the war on drugs and allowed his opinion to be swayed by the evidence, of which there is bucketloads, that legalisation of drugs is the way forward (and depending on the drug depends how, of course, and the best method for each is all explained and backed with real world examples of the given suggestions working.) Humans are animals and getting high is a thing that animals do. Best case is not abstinence but safe use (and safe use reduces overall use and encourages switching to less dangerous drugs!). The consequences of not accepting this are deadly. READ

  3. 4 out of 5

    Josh Johnson

    It's quite ironic that this is probably the most addictive book I've ever read. Harrowing and emotional but something everyone should read!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    Engrossing Exploration of Drug War Failures "I've seen the needle and the damage done A little part of it in everyone But every junkie's like a settin' sun." "Needle and the Damage Done," Neil Young, 1972 An engrossing exploration of the failures of the "war on drugs." The narrative tracks through the war's czar in the U.S., users and abusers, peddlers, law enforcement, the poor souls who have been "collaterally damaged" (family members and innocent bystanders), current policy makers, as well as Engrossing Exploration of Drug War Failures "I've seen the needle and the damage done A little part of it in everyone But every junkie's like a settin' sun." "Needle and the Damage Done," Neil Young, 1972 An engrossing exploration of the failures of the "war on drugs." The narrative tracks through the war's czar in the U.S., users and abusers, peddlers, law enforcement, the poor souls who have been "collaterally damaged" (family members and innocent bystanders), current policy makers, as well as governments who have legalized certain drugs (like marijuana in Vancouver) and all drugs (Portugal). I also found his coverage of studies on addiction fascinating. The psychology is such a crucial piece of the logical simple economics equation: people will NOT stop using and abusing drugs. Governments will fail at stopping demand, prohibitions and restrictions on supply thus only influence prices and buyer patterns. This generates huger profits leading to bigger, stronger criminal rackets (gangs, cartels, etc.) and wars among them, as well as many more crimes by the drug abusers (thefts, muggings, murders) to keep the addiction fed, all of which results in much more harm to many more victims, deaths and exponentially higher costs to society. Keith Richards, Day-by-Day Devastation of Heroin Addiction With a conversational writing style, Mr. Hari makes a compelling argument for legalization of all but darkly-affecting drugs like heroin and crack. While I do not believe I will see such legalization happen in my lifetime, this is a much-needed treatment of the subject that is certain to start conversations in some of the right locations. I cannot say he's convinced me of the answers, but I am much closer to his side of the fence on certain drugs after reading this book. I was definitely enlightened by this non-fiction book and recommend it, certainly if you have someone near and/or dear to you with a drug problem.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Flanagan

    Every now or then a book comes along that leaves you breathless and changes the way you look at the world. Chasing The Scream is one of those books a profound read that has made me rethink the war on drugs on made me look at how I carry out my own work. The war on drugs whether you know it or not has changed the very nature of the society we live in. It has turned a health issue into one of crime and by doing so encouraged more crime and violence. The evidence gathered in this book is overwhelmin Every now or then a book comes along that leaves you breathless and changes the way you look at the world. Chasing The Scream is one of those books a profound read that has made me rethink the war on drugs on made me look at how I carry out my own work. The war on drugs whether you know it or not has changed the very nature of the society we live in. It has turned a health issue into one of crime and by doing so encouraged more crime and violence. The evidence gathered in this book is overwhelming and when coupled together with the stories gathered by the author make for an unforgettable read. I defy anyone to read this book and tell me the War on Drugs is right and just. The author not only gathers evidence and personal stories but also traces the history of the War on drugs to deliver a well rounded read. As a Correctional officer that deals with the Drug Policy I thought I had a good grasp on this issues. I now find myself completely rethinking how we go about our drug policy and how we can move away from a punitive model to one that is supportive and understanding of drugs and addictions. I am in total awe of what Johann Hari has managed to deliver in this book and rate this as one of the most important books I have read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    I have really mixed feelings about this book. Hari's writing style is excecrable, and his account of the drug war is oversimplified. I can't emphasize enough how poorly written this book is - it reads like overly emotional, ham-fisted pap. And yet, I have to say that I think this book's popularity will be a net positive on the balance. It brings together a lot of good arguments in one place and makes them easily digestible and relatable to the kind of reader who might not otherwise be motivated I have really mixed feelings about this book. Hari's writing style is excecrable, and his account of the drug war is oversimplified. I can't emphasize enough how poorly written this book is - it reads like overly emotional, ham-fisted pap. And yet, I have to say that I think this book's popularity will be a net positive on the balance. It brings together a lot of good arguments in one place and makes them easily digestible and relatable to the kind of reader who might not otherwise be motivated to consider them. Is it dumbed-down, poorly written, and intellectually dishonest? Yes. But it will help change the conversation about drug policy in the more mainstream circles of American culture. That can't be a bad thing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This is one of the best books I have read in a long time and should be a must read for anyone who works in the field of substance abuse/ addiction. It is well researched and offers a valid alternative to the failed war on drugs in the USA. I have always advocated for the legalization of drugs and a total overhall in our drug policies - this book provides evidence on why legalization is the way to go. It is compelling and fascinating. Seriously, just read it. Even if the topic doesn't appeal to y This is one of the best books I have read in a long time and should be a must read for anyone who works in the field of substance abuse/ addiction. It is well researched and offers a valid alternative to the failed war on drugs in the USA. I have always advocated for the legalization of drugs and a total overhall in our drug policies - this book provides evidence on why legalization is the way to go. It is compelling and fascinating. Seriously, just read it. Even if the topic doesn't appeal to you much, you should still read it. It was that good.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Johann Hari sets out to answer some of our most pressing questions about “the war on drugs” in his book Chasing the Scream. Within the pages of this book, you will find out how and why the “war” began, how it impacts people from all walks of life, and how cities and countries across the world are changing the way they deal with both drugs and drug users. Chasing the Scream is an absolute gem, and I honestly feel that it's one of the best examinations of drug policy that I've read. Hari examines Johann Hari sets out to answer some of our most pressing questions about “the war on drugs” in his book Chasing the Scream. Within the pages of this book, you will find out how and why the “war” began, how it impacts people from all walks of life, and how cities and countries across the world are changing the way they deal with both drugs and drug users. Chasing the Scream is an absolute gem, and I honestly feel that it's one of the best examinations of drug policy that I've read. Hari examines the motivations behind drug policy (past and present) by weaving together facts and personal stories. He discusses the racial and economic biases that led to the desire to criminalize drugs in the first place as well as how these biases are seen in today's policies. Few people are willing to admit that the “war on drugs” was, at least in part, a war on societies “undesirables” and seeing this discussed so candidly was refreshing. I grew up in a county that, at one point, had the highest rate of methamphetamine use in the state so I'm no stranger to the world of drugs and addiction. I thought I knew how drugs worked and why people became addicted. I thought I even knew why prohibition didn't work too well. This book challenged all of these ideas and has caused me to rethink a few of my opinions. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone whose interested in drug policy or even the culture that surrounds drugs and their abuse. Note: I received this ebook free courtesy of Negalley in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    J. Ewbank

    That noise you just heard are the flying away of my presuppositions about the drug war. i have been naieve in the area of drugs and so have been pretty anti ddrugs. The things I hard about were scarry and awful. Though much of this remains true, I can see where legalization of some of the drugs would certainly hurt the drug trafficers and we could use the money to much more humanely work with those who are and weil become addicted. Johann Hari has asked and worked years to answer many of the que That noise you just heard are the flying away of my presuppositions about the drug war. i have been naieve in the area of drugs and so have been pretty anti ddrugs. The things I hard about were scarry and awful. Though much of this remains true, I can see where legalization of some of the drugs would certainly hurt the drug trafficers and we could use the money to much more humanely work with those who are and weil become addicted. Johann Hari has asked and worked years to answer many of the questions You and I have had concerning the drug wars. It is an interesting and very thought provoking analysis. J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the Isms" "Wesley's Wars" and "To Whom It May Concern"

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I have always been very anti-drug war, and so I am very much the "choir" that Hari is preaching to, but I cannot in good conscience recommend this book. From a policy perspective it seems like it could be very persuasive, so from an "ends justify the means" point of view, maybe I am a bit happy that it's out there, but it embodies almost everything I hate about popular journalism. I think that this New York Times review gives a good idea about many of this book's problems. The absolute stand-out I have always been very anti-drug war, and so I am very much the "choir" that Hari is preaching to, but I cannot in good conscience recommend this book. From a policy perspective it seems like it could be very persuasive, so from an "ends justify the means" point of view, maybe I am a bit happy that it's out there, but it embodies almost everything I hate about popular journalism. I think that this New York Times review gives a good idea about many of this book's problems. The absolute stand-out issue with this book is his pushing idiosyncratic views of addiction as if they are proven; for example, you can read this article about how the Rat Park experiment is flawed and misleading, which discusses how Hari's book has caused a revival of the study's popularity. I think the overall problem with the book is that Hari's goal was obviously to generate a compelling narrative, and preferably a narrative that neatly makes the argument for drug legalization. Unfortunately, the world is, as always, nuanced and complicated and so when "create a narrative" is higher on your list of priorities than "convey the truth", you end up mangling true stories until they fit your narrative. As an example, Hari's favorite device is clearly the "journey of discovery", so it feels like every other sentence he's "discovering" some "shocking truth" that goes against everything he thought he knew. Hard to square this with the fact that he's been an advocate of drug legalization since at least 10 years before he started writing this book, apparently writing a well-known article about it called "Just you wait until I grow up" in the New Statesman. 1.5 of 5 stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    Excellent at gathering information and facts as well as adding humanity to the topic by telling different people's stories, but overall not as revolutionary as I thought it was going to be.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I've seen television interviews and roundtables with Hari, and when I found out that he had written a book about drug policy and the science and sociology of addiction, I immediately added the book to my library list. The book was not what I was expecting - but this is not because I was disappointed with it in any way. What struck me is how very personal this book was for Hari. His first chapter explains the history of drug addiction in his family, and how it has also affected him personally. Th I've seen television interviews and roundtables with Hari, and when I found out that he had written a book about drug policy and the science and sociology of addiction, I immediately added the book to my library list. The book was not what I was expecting - but this is not because I was disappointed with it in any way. What struck me is how very personal this book was for Hari. His first chapter explains the history of drug addiction in his family, and how it has also affected him personally. This first-person narrative continues throughout the book as he interviews people all over the world, recounting detailed history of the beginnings of the drug war - how "Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup" (laced with morphine) was a bestselling tonic in Victorian times... and a few decades later, these opiates were suddenly vilified and rebelled against. The historical opening chapters were an eye-opening narrative of a famous singer and the law enforcement officer who obsessively worked to bring her down - and expose her addiction to the world, thereby going on to change drug laws not only in the US, but all over the world, and the first drug- dealing gangster of NYC and his manical and deadly rule over the boroughs. Incredible detail and strong writing - great introduction to the book, and Hari refers back to this "groundwork" many times throughout the book. Hari travels to the US, to Mexico, to Uruguay, to Canada, to Portugal, to Switzerland, and his own UK to learn about the global ramifications of this war on drugs. In the US and Latin America, the stories of powerful and horrific narco gangs are the true stories that have inspired popular films and television series (Sin Nombre, Narcos, Sicario, Breaking Bad) in recent years. In the US and Canada, and Europe, we learn of the addicts, and the deep stigmas and vilification of this population, and how some places - like Vancouver, BC - have worked extremely hard to change these stigmas. The addiction conversation continues as Hari works with scientists and sociologists who turn the tables on how society can help addicts. All of these pieces fit together for the final case for decriminalization and legalization of these drugs. All drugs? Certain drugs? The debate rages on, and Hari describes this in detail. The final chapter takes a close look at the two US states (at the time of writing in 2015) who have legalized marijuana for recreational use: Colorado and Washington. Hari interviews the advocates that worked in both states to legalize the substance, and how their philosophies and reasoning was vastly different. One of the final quotes in the book gave me a laugh, but also a pause - how much things have changed in a relatively short amount of time - and what we can expect in the future. Spoken by one of the Colorado attorneys who played a key role in the Colorado campaign: "For years, the only discussion was: 'How long should we be locking people up for possessing marijuana?' Now we're discussing what the font should be on the label of the pot brownies." 4.5 /5 - rounded up because I learned so much from this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Brilliantly constructed, lucid, compelling and mind changing I am 100% changed in my views. Thoroughly recommended

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barry

    A very worthy, well-researched and well-written book. It should, I hope, come to be regarded as an important book. I don't like the title, and I don't like that there are whole classes of drugs he ignores - concentrating on cannabis and heroin with a nod to cocaine, but largely ignoring the others, except to assassinate Timothy Leary. What he does cover though, he covers sensibly, intelligently and with touching humanity.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is an eye opening book that everyone should read. It will change the way you think. Our War on Drugs does not work. It actually makes crime worse and the people who need help the most get thrown out by society. I don't like drugs but this book changed my mind on how we are treating the drug problem. It's been almost 100 years of doing it in a way that has only made it worse. We have high crime, drug addicts, diseases, gangs, death on the streets, incarceration that is off the charts, people This is an eye opening book that everyone should read. It will change the way you think. Our War on Drugs does not work. It actually makes crime worse and the people who need help the most get thrown out by society. I don't like drugs but this book changed my mind on how we are treating the drug problem. It's been almost 100 years of doing it in a way that has only made it worse. We have high crime, drug addicts, diseases, gangs, death on the streets, incarceration that is off the charts, people afraid of cops, on and on. Read the book and you just might agree there are other ways to make it better. It truly is time to change our drug policies.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    This is a good introduction into how the drug war took over America. I still think Carl Hart's High Price is a more engrossing and scientific read, but this book condenses over 100 years of history for us non-drug users and I like that the desire to write it came from a place of compassion. This is a good introduction into how the drug war took over America. I still think Carl Hart's High Price is a more engrossing and scientific read, but this book condenses over 100 years of history for us non-drug users and I like that the desire to write it came from a place of compassion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tuck

    the war on drugs has been an unmitigated disaster for all involved, except for drug mafia profiteers, they are doing ok, becoming billionaire wacked murderers, and usa prisons for profit, they are doing ok, becoming billionaire-without-a-shred-of-ethics-or-morals capitalists gaming usa "justice" system, and the usa drug mafias, they are doing ok, making literally billions of dollars running a gigantic black economy tax free while their burned out, busted, dead, mutilated customers and employees the war on drugs has been an unmitigated disaster for all involved, except for drug mafia profiteers, they are doing ok, becoming billionaire wacked murderers, and usa prisons for profit, they are doing ok, becoming billionaire-without-a-shred-of-ethics-or-morals capitalists gaming usa "justice" system, and the usa drug mafias, they are doing ok, making literally billions of dollars running a gigantic black economy tax free while their burned out, busted, dead, mutilated customers and employees are thrown aside like so many junk food wrappers and the side of an oklahoma road. except for that, the war has had anti-results: has CREATED more underground economy, more mafia, more violence and death, more displaced people and more disrupted nature and environment, more drug users, more drug availablaibty good job war-on-drug-warriors! good job ronnie reagan you monster. this book of criminology, politic science, social science, policy analysis, is really really good to read, unputdownable, author has worked hard to find and report about real people in this failed war, so narratives are driving and interesting and compelling. has good endnotes, and super bibliography, and not-bad index. a must read for anybody the least bit interested in usa drug policy, drug war, legalization, international aspects of usa drug use and 'war', learning about real people dealing with the very real and nasty usa policies, from your neighborhood to international spies and armies.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Linda Tuplin

    One of the most readable, common sense books on the subject that I have read. It put a really interesting spin on the issue, and one that I feel is valid. "If we can't bond with other people, we will find a behaviour to bond with...if the only bond you can find that gives you relief or meaning...you will return to that bond obsessively." Should be recommended reading for all health care professionals, if for no other reason than to reawaken compassion.

  19. 4 out of 5

    MichelinaNeri

    I only read the first third of this book before I made the mistake of Googling the author. There are too many books in the world I want to read without wasting my time on a disgraced journalist who betrayed the trust of his readers with plagiarism, fabrication and lies. Why should I ever trust anything he says? How can I trust anything in this book? Lying in journalism is a betrayal that I cannot forgive. Also, the unnecessarily sensationalist style of his writing, with the breathless and clunki I only read the first third of this book before I made the mistake of Googling the author. There are too many books in the world I want to read without wasting my time on a disgraced journalist who betrayed the trust of his readers with plagiarism, fabrication and lies. Why should I ever trust anything he says? How can I trust anything in this book? Lying in journalism is a betrayal that I cannot forgive. Also, the unnecessarily sensationalist style of his writing, with the breathless and clunking opening to each chapter, reminded me of Dan Brown more than anything else. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/bre... "The key problem with Hari's approach to interviews... is that he has deployed the Noble Truth defence – the idea that it is okay to play fast and loose with the facts, and with reality itself, just so long as you end up telling a 'greater truth'. The notion that one can reach 'the truth' by manipulating reality should be anathema to anyone who calls himself a journalist... Hari admits to substituting his interviewees' written words for their spoken words, quoting from their books and pretending that they actually said those words to him over coffee. But that is okay, he says, because his only aim was to reveal 'what the subject thinks in the most comprehensible possible words' and to make sure that the reader 'understood the point'. He says he has interviewed people who have 'messages we desperately need to hear', 'brave' people with 'vital messages', and therefore it is in everyone's interests that he present those messages in the clearest manner possible. Even if that means fabricating a conversation..."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert Morris

    Read this book. Then get someone else to read it. This is not a flawless read, but it is a good one, and it is very very important. Johann Hari spent three years researching what he calls the "beginning and the end" of the drug war, and he has produced an absolutely damning account. I have been a convinced opponent of the drug war for decades, but I was stunned by the power of this book. By telling the stories of just a few of the lives destroyed by the Drug War he illustrates its insanity and o Read this book. Then get someone else to read it. This is not a flawless read, but it is a good one, and it is very very important. Johann Hari spent three years researching what he calls the "beginning and the end" of the drug war, and he has produced an absolutely damning account. I have been a convinced opponent of the drug war for decades, but I was stunned by the power of this book. By telling the stories of just a few of the lives destroyed by the Drug War he illustrates its insanity and outright evil with great power and sympathy. The bits of the book I found most valuable were the recounting of the tale of Harry Anslinger, the bastard who started it all, the new research on how addiction works, and most of all the focus on the experiences of addicts. Over and over again, he shows how drug prohibition turns people with a minor problem into criminals, destroys their lives and often kills them. I found some of the historical stuff a bit over reliant on a few sources, but there is almost nothing to complain about in his description of the contemporary drug war. It really is that horrific. These things are happening, and we are allowing it and paying for it. This book is a valuable contribution to the conversation, and the more people that read it the better.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Baal Of

    For me, the biggest message of this book is that America's war on drugs is utterly evil. It has caused tremendous amounts of harm in the form of ruined lives and broken families, massive unnecessary incarceration, and abuse by police against people who are defined as criminal for nothing more than smoking a bit of pot. It has created massive amounts of violence and crime, increasing, or even creating from whole cloth cartels and gangs that escalate their violence to prove that they should not be For me, the biggest message of this book is that America's war on drugs is utterly evil. It has caused tremendous amounts of harm in the form of ruined lives and broken families, massive unnecessary incarceration, and abuse by police against people who are defined as criminal for nothing more than smoking a bit of pot. It has created massive amounts of violence and crime, increasing, or even creating from whole cloth cartels and gangs that escalate their violence to prove that they should not be fucked with, and since they deal in illegal substances and have no legal recourse to protect their trade, they are forced into this kind of action. This is a direct consequence of prohibition, and it's something that this nation should have learned loud and clearly from the decade of alcohol prohibition. The war on drugs has increased the incidence of addition, forced people into usage of harder drugs than they might otherwise have chosen, and increased death by overdose, and secondary medical problems. It has contributed to the spread of AIDS. It has proven itself, in almost every way possible, to be a complete failure, accomplishing not a single one of its stated goals. And worse yet, America has forced this atrocity on nearly every other nation in the world. On top of that, the war on drugs, as led by Harry Anslinger, is at its core a racist endeavor, the fact of which is well documented in this book, and continues to this day as reflected in the skewed numbers of the prison populations. To add insult to injury, Ansliger himself dealt heroin to Senator Joe McCarthy, using government funds, and then, later in life, required daily doses of morphine to combat pain from his angina. This is the same man who is largely responsible for harassing Billie Holiday about her drug use, and helped to drive her to her death. The hypocrisy doesn't just belong with Anslinger, either. The U.S. government has pursued policies and political strategies to hide the truth, including threatening to cut off funding to the WHO unless they suppressed the results of a large scientific study of cocaine that didn't have results that fit the ideology of the war on drugs. Before I read this book, I was in favor of decriminalization of most drugs, but not necessarily legalization. Now, I am completely on the side legalization, with appropriate regulation, of all drugs. The arguments presented in this book are overwhelming. Drug addiction should be a matter between a user and medical professionals, who can administer the correct dose of clean drugs, and provide conselling and other tools to help addicts stop when they are ready. All users should have access to a social network, not be driven out of their homes, and cut off from society, which only drives them deeper into despair. I hope that lots of people read this book, and very deeply consider their own positions on this topic. If one's goals are to reduce death, reduce addiction, reduce crime, reduce the burden on the justice system, increase happiness, reduce governmental costs, and actually help people, then there really is only one correct position, and it is to eliminate this senseless war on drugs.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Wow. I wasn't sure what I would think of this, given Hari's past difficulties, but since he made every effort to substantiate and document each quote, I happily relaxed into the very best argument for ending the drug war I've ever read. Not only was it articulate and readable and logical, but Hari uses the stories of those on all sides of the drug wars to illustrate his thesis, and the result is stunning. I honestly think this book would make the most diehard drug warrior a little shaken. For so Wow. I wasn't sure what I would think of this, given Hari's past difficulties, but since he made every effort to substantiate and document each quote, I happily relaxed into the very best argument for ending the drug war I've ever read. Not only was it articulate and readable and logical, but Hari uses the stories of those on all sides of the drug wars to illustrate his thesis, and the result is stunning. I honestly think this book would make the most diehard drug warrior a little shaken. For someone who has already come to suspect that the "cure" is worse than the "disease", it is devastating. I almost feel like there is no turning back after reading this---I have to step up my support for decriminalization and legalization, and for compassionate, humanitarian reasons. This is kind of funny, because I do not do drugs, or drink, or smoke, or even drink tea, coffee, or caffeinated soft drinks. I'm a teetotaler's teetotaler. But even I can see that what we are doing is not working--is, in fact, failing so utterly and so miserably that I can't believe it's taken us decades to even begin to see it. To me, each addict is a tragedy. But a tragedy compounded infinitely by being accompanied by unnecessary pain, sickness, disease, poverty, violence, death, mayhem, overstuffed prisons, and forever-ruined lives, in all directions, all over the world. And all unnecessary. This book is a revelation. The more widely it is read, the more hope.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kamila

    This book completely changed my view on drugs, addicts and human connection. This book should be read by anyone who is interested in US History, has anyone close with an addiction of any kind, or is interested on how the prohibition started and the reasons behind it. It is very well written and it leaves you with the desire to play a more active role in the war on drugs.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I think this is a very important book in the discussion about addiction on both a societal and personal level. The accounts and studies that Hari reports upon add some food for thought. My biggest trouble with this book were the stories. While I understand their importance, their narrative handling felt overly sentimental and my emotional strings were yanked around. It felt more manipulative than heartfelt. Perhaps this was partially due to the narrator, or perhaps not. I have also read about Ha I think this is a very important book in the discussion about addiction on both a societal and personal level. The accounts and studies that Hari reports upon add some food for thought. My biggest trouble with this book were the stories. While I understand their importance, their narrative handling felt overly sentimental and my emotional strings were yanked around. It felt more manipulative than heartfelt. Perhaps this was partially due to the narrator, or perhaps not. I have also read about Hari's questionable reporting ethics. He was caught with plagiarism in his first book. Then, he was caught editing this incident off his Wikipedia page under a pseudonym. While I agree these actions are wrong, it is a reminder that readers should never read anything as 100 percent "true" because it will have always been written by a human and, therefore, imperfect. Some reviewers question the believability of this book, because he was caught. Does that make a journalist who wasn't caught anymore believable? Regardless to what we read, we should never take it on blind faith. Instead, we should absorb each morsel and determine our own minds to the best of our abilities. Regardless to whether this book is subjected to future scandals, Hari presents very interesting points that should be thought about. 1. The drug war has ruined Mexico. I have personally met several people who have immigrated from Mexico who confirm this statement. 2. Legal punishment does not deter addiction. It just makes recovery more difficult. Based on the addicts I have known, this also seems to be true. 3. Addicts need love and acceptance rather than becoming social pariahs. Why is this not common sense? It seems so straightforward to me. Addicts use because they're in pain and lonely. Social isolation breeds pain. Love and compassion are emotional balms. 4. The drug war is racist. One of the teachers I work with, who is finishing her PhD in law, has studied this and agrees. The prosecution for cheap drugs that poor people can afford, such as crack, have stiffer consequences than more expensive drugs that rich people prefer, such as cocaine. There are other points that I agreed with, as well. Of all the books on addiction I've read, this is different than any other. While I wish it covered a few more aspects of addiction, I understand that this is only one voice in a much larger conversation. I look forward to seeing what others add to this conversation.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn Day

    This is masterful nonfiction. The best nonfiction informs and illuminates, making a reader feel more compassion or more passionate (or both) about a subject. Good nonfiction is not staid or dry: it’s provocative. And this book is incredibly provocative. It’s also heart-wrenching and difficult to process. It made me angry and sad, while giving me the smallest of glimpses outside the bubble in which I have the privilege to reside. Hari writes several books in one here. The first book is a well-res This is masterful nonfiction. The best nonfiction informs and illuminates, making a reader feel more compassion or more passionate (or both) about a subject. Good nonfiction is not staid or dry: it’s provocative. And this book is incredibly provocative. It’s also heart-wrenching and difficult to process. It made me angry and sad, while giving me the smallest of glimpses outside the bubble in which I have the privilege to reside. Hari writes several books in one here. The first book is a well-researched dive into how the government created a war on drugs in the first place. Here we meet Harry Anslinger, a villain so perfect that it seems he’s been made up. From the late 1800′s into the next century, Anslinger climbed the ranks of government to become the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics–a position he exploited to wage his own personal war on drugs (marijuana, specifically). Hari doesn’t pull punches, showing clearly the disgusting racial motivations to government intervention in drug trade and how that mentality persists, harms, and eradicates families and people today. The other book-within-the-book discusses addiction on a more personal scale: the reasons why it happens, the incorrect assumptions about how it can be cured. Hari discovers centers and research that show that addiction is often synonymous with a lack of human connection: that a lack of compassion and connection perpetuates the addiction cycle. Intertwined here we find personal stories, the most devastating of which occurs in the almost unbelievably violent chapter about the Mexican drug trade, warring cartels, and the effects these two things have on the local populations there. Hari’s hypothesis–that the war on drugs perpetuates the trade, sale, and use of drugs–is aptly supported by the research and anecdotal evidence he places throughout the book. It’s impossible to come away from reading this without being changed or affected. It’s a masterful book and I encourage you to read it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Keen

    “Drugs are not what we think they are. Drug addiction is not what we have been told it is. The drug war is not what our politicians have sold it as for one hundred years and counting. And there is a very different story out there waiting for us when we are ready to hear it-one that should leave us thrumming with hope.” This starts of by focusing on three people, Harry Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Arnold Rothstein a racketeer and the singer Billie Holiday. Hari builds up “Drugs are not what we think they are. Drug addiction is not what we have been told it is. The drug war is not what our politicians have sold it as for one hundred years and counting. And there is a very different story out there waiting for us when we are ready to hear it-one that should leave us thrumming with hope.” This starts of by focusing on three people, Harry Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Arnold Rothstein a racketeer and the singer Billie Holiday. Hari builds up an intriguing back story to the origins of the war on the drugs, which helps us understand how we got into the mess we are in today. The 20th century saw some dramatic changes within the US’s attitudes to drugs. The Harrison Act of 1914 saw the banning of heroin and cocaine, though six year later would see one of the most idiotic, ignorant and ill-informed decisions the US made throughout the 20th century, when it brought in prohibition. As we know prohibition invites excess, but the unmitigated disaster of the prohibition era unleashed a catalogue of horrors onto the nation, as well as poisoning, disabling and killing upwards of tens of thousands of people throughout the land, it gave rise to a number of organised crime syndicates, which empowered many dangerous people who would go onto flourish for decades afterwards. This was a huge lesson in what happens when you marginalise, criminalise and dehumanise people for political capital. Of course, not only was it one that America was incapable of learning from, but it would go onto to commit even further chaos and horror for many more people in the shape of the war on drugs. Like any war anywhere the first casualty is usually the truth. Of course what the war on drugs really is a race war, it is also a war on the poorest and neediest in society. This is a murky sphere where the likes of myth, misinformation, emotion and plain old lies, trump reason, truth and scientific evidence almost every time. One of the most shocking facts to emerge from this book is what goes on in the US prison system. Without doubt the US penal system is one of the most cruel, ignorant and punishing on earth. This is a nation which has imprisoned more people than anyone else in the world and possibly even history. We learn about a mentally ill woman who was forced into an exposed cage in the desert and guards not only stood by and watched her being boiled to death in the heat but some of them laughed and ridiculed her as she died a slow and painful death?...Some of those guards still hold those jobs today. Then there is the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio. His brutal approach is not so much tough love as cruel bully. A barbaric, medieval scenario which you would more commonly associate with middle eastern theocracies. The conditions of his complex will be familiar to those who have read the many accounts from men in Guantanamo Bay. Tent City in the Arizona desert is a women’s prison where inmates are given two grim meals a day, a brownish slop that Arpaio once boasted contained “rotten” lumps. There is a purposely built air-conditioned building standing nearby but Arpaio threw the prisoners out and uses it as an animal shelter instead, leaving physically and often mentally ill prisoner languishing out in tents (some of them dating back to the Korean War) as dust storms rage and poisonous creatures roam. “If I speak the truth to you I will go to the Hole and it’s awful, you have nothing. Please understand, I’d like to talk to you but I can’t. They are watching us.” So read the note from one terrified prisoner handed to the author during his visit to this facility. Staying with the state of Arizona, we learn about the case of Mark Tucker a mentally disabled man who was kept in solitary for so many years with countless pleas for a cellmate refused, he eventually set himself on fire, and ended up with 80% burns. The Department of Corrections responded by charging him $1.8 Million for the medical care he received. We see the many cruel and vindictive ways in which the US government works. It does one of the things it does best, it creates problems where they didn’t exist and it exacerbates existing ones. They threaten, bully and intimidate other countries into doing what they want. They spread fear, mis-information and claim to be an authority on something they know little to nothing about. And if you dare question or oppose any of it, no matter how ridiculous it is, then you are fingered the enemy and part of the problem and action is taken against you. “In 1995 the WHO conducted a massive scientific study of cocaine and its effects. They discovered that “experimental and occasional use are by far the most common types of use, and compulsive/dysfunctional (use) is far less common.” The US government threatened to cut off funding to the WHO unless they suppressed the report. It has never been published; we know what it says only because it was leaked.” Thankfully it’s not all bad news, the deeply uplifting story of Vancouver, which now boasts the most progressive drug policies within the entire North American continent is inspiring. This is largely due to the work of poet and community organiser, Bud Osborn and right wing politician Philip Owen, who after much pressure and persuasion decided to go undercover to see what the lives of addicts were like and his experiences would permanently alter his outlook and go onto change policy within the city. “Whatever gave (you) the idea folk in authority operate according to reason? Your trouble is you’re being rational.” So said Dr. John Marks to the author. We learn of the tremendous work this man did in Liverpool until the US government and the Conservative government intervened and in spite of legally prescribing heroin to addicts from 1982-1995 without recording a single fatality and improving the lives of countless people, he was closed down and since then addiction and the crime around it has soared back up in the city and many users have lost their lives. Geneva in Switzerland, a country hardly known for its liberal tolerance (It didn’t give women the right to vote until 1971) had some ground breaking reforms which made a huge impact on drug problems there. Then there is the case of Jose Mujica the Uruguyan president who legalised cannabis. The most notable and encouraging examples is with Portugal. They have set the standard throughout the world and dared to approach the problem with an open mind and a firm sense of reason and by decriminalising drug use and putting in place many social services, it has produced some truly astonishing results. One way to sum it up is in the years since heroin was decriminalised in Portugal its use has been halved while in the US where the war still rages on it has doubled. This is a hugely important piece of work and it makes for essential reading. I would love to believe that some of the politicians in many parts of the world would read this, take notice and respond to the evidence and facts in a positive manner and try to instigate some meaningful change.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Oh wow, what an eye-opener. I've always liked the work of Johann Hari, despite the controversy which surrounded him recently (and which he has openly admitted and accepted guilt for - which in itself boosts him in my eyes) so I was looking forward to reading this book. If there is a clearer, harder hitting, more balanced and more shocking book describing the stupidity of the war on drugs, then I've not seen it. There were parts of this book where I found myself in tears at the inhumanity meted o Oh wow, what an eye-opener. I've always liked the work of Johann Hari, despite the controversy which surrounded him recently (and which he has openly admitted and accepted guilt for - which in itself boosts him in my eyes) so I was looking forward to reading this book. If there is a clearer, harder hitting, more balanced and more shocking book describing the stupidity of the war on drugs, then I've not seen it. There were parts of this book where I found myself in tears at the inhumanity meted on some people and the loss, tragedy and horror which the continuing war on drugs perpetuates. And to see how it arose out of the most sickening form of racism and bigotry made it all the worse. I honestly couldn't believe how so much of this was happening in a supposedly civilised and modern country like the USA. Read the chapter on the prison (which amounts to nothing but a concentration camp) in Arizona. It broke my heart. This is one of those books which everyone should read. It isn't all depressing - there is a great deal of hope and a lot of reflection from the author, but this should be the first battle cry of a world which wants to stop the violent, destructive criminality and the destruction of lives which the drug war has undoubtedly precipitated.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Ray

    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6506936 "Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find - the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding'. A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else. So the opp http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6506936 "Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find - the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding'. A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else. So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection." -- Johann Hari www.chasingthescream.com www.twitter.com/johannhari101

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    Wow... This was the best book I've read in a long time. It has certainly influenced the way I perceive drugs, drug users, drug addicts, social policy and the drug war. This book made me recognize and reconsider social prejudices and preconceptions that I didn't even realize I had. I recommend it to everyone. To paraphrase the author, the effects of drugs and drug prohibition have a much broader influence in our lives and global society than most people imagine and those effects are not limited t Wow... This was the best book I've read in a long time. It has certainly influenced the way I perceive drugs, drug users, drug addicts, social policy and the drug war. This book made me recognize and reconsider social prejudices and preconceptions that I didn't even realize I had. I recommend it to everyone. To paraphrase the author, the effects of drugs and drug prohibition have a much broader influence in our lives and global society than most people imagine and those effects are not limited to those directly involved with drug use and trade.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pink

    I loved this. It's just the sort of non-fiction book that I enjoy. Perfect for any fans of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City or The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. I loved this. It's just the sort of non-fiction book that I enjoy. Perfect for any fans of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City or The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

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