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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Book Review: ‘Dreamland: The True Tale Of America’s Opiate Epidemic’

Book Review: ‘Dreamland: The True Tale Of America’s Opiate Epidemic’

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones; Bloomsbury (384 pages, $28.00)

First declared by President Nixon, the war on drugs was always already political. Nixon aide John Erlichman later commented on its origins:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

A decade later, President Reagan announced that illicit drugs were a national security threat. “We’re making no excuses for drugs—hard, soft, or otherwise. Drugs are bad, and we’re going after them. As I’ve said before, we’ve taken down the surrender flag and run up the battle flag. And we’re going to win the war on drugs.” Announced three weeks before the 1982 midterm elections, Reagan’s initiative both intensified and militarized the drug war.

Not all drugs were bad, of course. The Reagan administration lavished benefits on Big Pharma, and Congress passed laws that extended patent protections and monopoly rights for brand-name drugs. But even with illegal narcotics, the Reagan administration applied a double standard. As we know from the Kerry Committee report of 1989, CIA officials knew that Nicaraguan drug dealers were selling powder and crack cocaine in Los Angeles during the 1980s. Nobody lifted a finger to stop it. They also knew that the profits supported the Nicaraguan contras, whom the Reagan administration actively (and illegally) aided in their efforts to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.

As the drug war dragged on, it netted users who didn’t fit Erlichman’s description. A decade ago, we learned that Rush Limbaugh abused Oxycontin, a prescription painkiller also known as hillbilly heroin. He was arrested but served no jail time; Palm Beach prosecutors dropped the charge after Limbaugh agreed to continue his treatment. “I actually thank God for my addiction to pain pills,” he told Fox News in 2009, “because I learned more about myself in rehab than I would have ever learned otherwise.” In particular, he realized he had been trying too hard to be liked in his personal life. But after seven weeks of treatment, he emerged with “zero feelings of inadequacy.” Limbaugh’s skirmish in the drug war turned out to be a voyage of personal growth and self-discovery.

While the Limbaugh story played out, many American cities were experiencing large increases in the use of black tar heroin imported from Mexico. These weren’t cities previously associated with that drug; rather, they were places like Salt Lake City, Boise, Charlotte, Portland, and Columbus. For years, local law enforcement noticed unarmed dealers making home deliveries in small quantities. Even when they made arrests, the cases were minor and often led to deportation. And because police officers rarely communicated with their counterparts in other mid-size cities, they failed to see the larger pattern.

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  • hicusdicus

    The two things people do the most in life is breath and feel pain. The solution does not lie in passing legislation against it. People some how must be accommodated So they don’t have to be criminals and hurt people to acquire it.. Ever wonder how much of our welfare money goes to the drug cartels? I personally can’t get by to well with out pain medication. I am very diligent in how I dispense it to my self. As I age it becomes more necessary. I have never received any gold stars for suffering.

  • pisces63

    Here we go, the writer wrote about the double standard used in prosecuting drug
    users and dealers. Yet, blame welfarerecipients. I live in Cleveland Ohio and
    there is a major heroine epidemic going on…….IN THE OUTER RING, WEALTHY,
    SUBURBS. Kids are dying. There are drug raids going on almost daily at
    their schools. Locker searches. Dogs brought in. Lock downs. All white. Over 70% of the users are white and over 60% of them have used. I hear and see all these offers to ‘help’ them while during the crack wars of over 20 years ago, they threw the black users/dealers in jail. One black kid received 15 years for having 3 rocks and had no other record. A white kid, during this same time, also 16, had three arrests for possession andintent to distribute(had kilos in his possession) and still has no felony, just drug intervention. The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran a series on the unequal treatment in Cleveland’s court between blacks and whites. One outer ring
    suburban school, white, just passed legislation, LAST WEEK, to have their
    school kids tested for drugs. You do notsee it in ours. I know, I have lived in
    the Hough area most of my 66 years. So, find another tact and look to your own people. I had major surgery in 1993 and was given Darvocet. I took two as directed when I got home and was a space cadet for two days. I was out on short term from work for 6 weeks and the rest of the medication lasted me that long, 23 tablets. I took one every other day, maybe. I had minor surgery a couple of years ago and they gave me oxy which made me violently ill. I am allergic. IF Advil or Excedrin doesn’t do the trick, oh well. That’s the extent of my medicine cabinet, my children’s, also. Rob
    Portman spoke at the City Club last year and spoke of the epidemic and how he
    had seen friends die or go into rehab and THEN he segued into ‘that’s why black
    kids can’t learn to read, too busy ducking from drive by shootings. My head shot up. There were and have been no drive by anythings.