Fentanyl, Inc. – Book Review
Author: Ben Westhoff
Genre: Non-fiction, science, health, medicine, drugs, politics
My rating: ★★★★☆
Release Date: Published 1st October,2019 by Scribe Publications
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
What did I think?
This is a fascinating book though it’s heavy – with its message, it’s story and on information – so I read it bit by bit over a month. Though it’s called Fentanyl, Inc. the book covers more than just that. Fentanyl is a great focus because it has been described by the DEA as “the serial killer of the drug world”. No kidding. It’s potent – deadly in microscopic amounts – and it is turning up everywhere: In heroin, cocaine and even in pills made to look like prescription medications. The biggest problem is that if a person doesn’t know a product contains Fentanyl, then overdose likelihood is greatly increased.
What the book is really focused on, beyond fentanyl, is synthetic drugs. The landscape has transformed since I was young and people smoked pot and occasionally died from heroin overdoses. When I say that I’m not trying to gloss over it or minimise it. Just make the point that shit got worse. Much worse. Now the market is flooding with synthetic drugs that have no basis in nature, where as soon as one drug becomes illegal the manufacturers make a small chemical change to create a new, untested, drug that hasn’t come to the attention of authorities and is, therefore, still legal. As David Nichols put it “make one drug illegal, and a more dangerous one will take its place,” It’s really confusing – and it’s a game that can’t be won. Now that this is happening its pretty much impossible to ‘catch up’. That’s where we’re at.
Westhoff tells us that most traditional drugs now have synthetic versions. Cannabis has cannabinoids and yes, they’ve caused considerable health problems. What became clear from reading Fentanyl, Inc. was that when the traditional drugs such as heroin and cannabis are unavailable, the new synthetic drugs take their place whether buyers want them, or not. There seems to be some opiate abusers who like fentanyl because it’s a stronger drug but the message I got from the book overall was that most people prefer the traditional version for which the dose is longer lasting and does not come with the same risks.
My one complaint
My one big gripe is this: On page 49 Westhoff links fentanyl with the novichok Skripal poisoning. This is still bothering me because when I googled fentanyl + skripal the only sites linking them are “alternative” news sites. The kind of sites I would not go to looking for facts (and I wish that no one did). I had a crisis of faith when I read that, but I did push on and found that Westhoff drew from many sources including drug users, families of those who have died from overdose, drug dealers, manufacturers, those involved in the war on drugs and those who work in harm reduction. He visited laboratories and even went undercover. The book overall was thorough and was well written. I appreciated it, but I would still like to hear how fentanyl became linked to the Skripal event!
Fentanyl, Inc. was hard to follow sometimes but that is the nature of this story. The whole synthetic drug thing (including fentanyl) is a cluster f***. And it’s scary. I was looking forward to hearing about solutions and the ones given were those on which I was already pretty much sold. I have fears and concerns about some harm reduction policies BUT I don’t see a better way. I already believe it’s the way forward and I believe that more so with my new found understanding of how out of control things are now that synthetic drugs are flooding the market.
I read this book thanks to a giveaway. Thank you Scribe Publications!