A riveting and deeply human examination of the synthetic-drug epidemic — and in particular the rise of fentanyl, the newest and most deadly wave of the opioid crisis.
A new crop of chemicals is radically changing the recreational-drug landscape. Known as Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), these chemicals include replacements for known drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and heroin. They are synthetic, made in a laboratory, and are much more potent than traditional drugs — and, all too often, they are tragically lethal. Fentanyl, Inc. is the first deep-dive investigation of a hazardous illicit industry that has created a worldwide epidemic, ravaging communities and overwhelming and confounding the government agencies that are challenged to combat it.
Drugs like fentanyl, with arcane acronyms like 4-ANPP, K2, and NBOMe, were all originally developed in legitimate laboratories for proper medicinal purposes. Their formulas were then hijacked by rogue chemists, largely in China but increasingly in other places, too, who change their molecular structures to stay ahead of the law, a process that makes the drugs’ effects impossible to predict. Westhoff has infiltrated this shadowy world. In Fentanyl, Inc., he recounts how he tracked down a mysterious drug baron in New Zealand who unintentionally sparked one aspect of the synthetic-drug revolution. He visits the shady factories in China from which these drugs emanate, providing startling and original reporting on how China's vast chemical industry operates. He chronicles the lives of addicts and dealers, families of victims, law enforcement officers, and underground drug-awareness organisers in the U.S. and Europe.
Together, they provide the shocking full picture of a calamity we are only just beginning to understand. And yet from its depths, as Westhoff relates, are emerging new strategies that may provide essential long-term solutions to the drug crisis that has affected so many.
‘Through his courageous reporting, Ben Westhoff takes us to the heart of the problem. In Fentanyl, Inc. he shines a light on the human wreckage and damage caused by the most powerful and dangerous of the opioids, fentanyl, and its derivatives. He shows us how addiction, mislabeling, purposefully or mistakenly mixed drugs lead to tragic ends. The drug is often created out of factories operating with the permission of the Chinese government. To solve this epidemic, we must understand it. Make no mistake; the fentanyl problem is a global issue. Fentanyl, Inc. is a must-read, pulling the curtain back and showing us how this human tragedy occurs and how insidious and addictive a drug can be.’
Katherine Tobin, PhD, Former Member of the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission
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‘A necessary and sobering look at the opioid crisis and how it is not as simple as it appears on the surface. Well-researched and user-friendly for all readers. An important book.’
Debra Ginsberg, Bay Books
‘Drawing material from official reports, drug databases, scores of interviews, and years of personal research, Westhoff presents an unflinching, illuminating portrait of a festering crisis involving a drug industry that thrives as effectively as it kills. Highly sobering, exemplary reportage delivered through richly detailed scenarios and diversified perspectives.’ STARRED REVIEW
Praise for Original Gangstas
‘I trust Ben Westhoff. I trust him to report a story and I trust him to tell a story, and that's exactly what he's done here in Original Gangstas. He's taken what's always felt like an almost impossibly knotted string of storylines and plot points in gangsta rap, the most turbulent version of the most popular music on the planet, and turned them into an airtight and unflinching book. Original Gangstas is as resolute as the people and ideas it sets out to profile, and that is no small feat.’
Shea Serrano, New York Times bestselling-author of The Rap Year Book
Praise for Original Gangstas
‘A provocative, multifaceted portrait of essential rap pioneers who ushered the hip-hop music scene to greatness … As raw, authoritative, and unflinching as the music his narrative chronicles, Westhoff comprehensively uncovers the factual roots of the gangsta rap movement and admirably credits those whose footprints paved the way for the younger rappers emerging today … An elaborately detailed, darkly surprising, definitive history of the LA gangsta rap era.’ STARRED REVIEW
Praise for Dirty South
‘Packed with lively reporting and colourful social history … doesn't shy away from the bigger questions. Westhoff grapples with Southern rap's troubling racial politics and takes on the critics.’