Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic

Atlantic Monthly. Sept. 2019. 356p. notes. index. ISBN 9780802127433. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780802147950. SOC SCI
Exacerbating and complicating the epidemic of opioid misuse, addiction, and overdose is the careening growth in Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), an ever-expanding array of synthetic drugs designed to mimic the effects of traditional recreational and pharmaceutical chemicals—but typically with much higher potency, and trafficked in disguise, so that users simply do not know what they are taking. As soon as one NPS is identified and banned, another is developed, produced, and distributed to take its place. Journalist Westhoff (Original Gangstas) traces fentanyl and other NPS from academic labs to Chinese firms, Mexican cartels, and Dark Web entrepreneurs. He meets with users, survivors, and dealers, and travels to China to visit suppliers in the guise of a customer. Critiquing prohibition-oriented drug policy, Westhoff explores more pragmatic responses including grassroots harm-reduction activism and supervised injection facilities, needle exchanges, and treatment programs that could lower public-health costs and reduce fatalities.
VERDICT Following after Sam Quinones’s Dreamland, which surveyed the ravages of prescription pills and black tar heroin, this book will assist policymakers, activists, and general readers in understanding better how to respond to the drug crisis that is only more intractable now
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