The slightly misleading subtitle is How Rogue Chemists are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic. Why misleading? So many substance abuse books are a mix of hysterical in tone and a disappointing “paint by numbers” in their execution, but this one really stands out for its research, journalism, and overall analysis. To give just one example, it is also a great book on China, and how China and the Chinese chemicals industry works, backed up by extensive original investigation.
Start with this:
Americans take more opioids per capita — legitimate and illegitimate uses combined — than any other country in the world. Canada is second, and both far outstrip Europe. Americans take four times as many opioids as people do in the United Kingdom.
For many years, Chinese organized-crime groups known as triads have been involved in the international meth trade. But experts familiar with triads say their influence appears to be waning in the fentanyl era. “They’re a shadow of their former selves,” said Justin Hastings, an associate professor in international relations and comparative politics at the University of Sydney…Though ad hoc criminal organizations continue to move drugs in China, major trafficking organizations are rare there, and cartels basically nonexistent. This leaves the market wide open for Chinese chemical companies, who benefit from an air of legitimacy.
As for marijuana and cocaine, they are used by only about one in every forty thousand individuals in China. But the book covers the entire U.S. history as well.
Definitely recommended, this will be making my year-end “best of” list for non-fiction. And yes I did go and buy his earlier book on West Coast rap music.