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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Book Review: Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari

Finished July 20, 2015

Synopsis on Good Reads

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

My review on Good Reads

5 of 5 stars

I’d almost call this as essential a read for adults as the recreational drugs book my mother gave my brother and me to read when we were teens. She told us that the book, which of course she’d read first, was to let us know what is there and what it’s supposed to do, including side effects and the likelihood of addiction and dangers from taking the drug. She was always open to discussion but she told us to think; make intelligent decisions. As lax as some may think it was, neither of us had drug problems and did more telling people what the drug we were refusing did than experimenting when we were younger.

Chasing The Scream is a book like that, almost a follow-up to that book from my teen years. It starts with how the “war on drugs” started and follows cases of addiction, laws, punishment, street gangs, violence and murder from that beginning to present day. Careers have been made and ruined by this war, lives have been saved and ended.

The book also addresses the harm drug prohibition does. Similar to alcohol prohibition it curbed the use of drugs a little, but it also made more people criminals. There have been behavior tests that have debunked the strength of addiction to the drugs themselves there have been programs tried at relaxing laws and helping addicts that have worked. There has also been violent resistance. Imagine the governments making money or political inroads from the war and drug kingpins that decorate their mansions with profits because what they sell is illegal and users caught dangerously in the middle, just like it was with the government and gangsters in alcohol prohibition. More people ended up in jail or dead for visiting a speakeasy than the people opening the door or supplying the bathtub gin.

If I sound a little swayed, I am. After reading about the huge strides groups and governments have made with efforts to end the war on drugs and help people affected by them; the people who have actually tried to understand why addiction happens. Drugs and partying is not something new to civilized mankind but addiction is more prolific today. Maybe it’s not what drugs do to people but what people don’t do for other people.

Chasing The Scream, is a well-researched book told in easy to understand language. Real stories and real people tell the history and suggest the future of the war on drugs or its end. I’m not going to all out try to change minds…yet…but I definitely encourage everyone to read this book with your mind open and form your own opinions.

1 comment:

seamhead gypsy said...

I was going to read this book on vacation this week but I changed my mind. Instead I'm rereading To Kill A Mockingbird the I'm going to read the new Harper Lee novel. I have no expectations about Go Set A Watchman so I won't be disappointed, despite what the critics are saying.