An undercover investigation into the synthetic-drug epidemic.
A new group of chemicals is radically transforming the recreational-drug landscape. Known as novel psychoactive substances (NPS), they range from so-called ‘legal highs’ like Spice, to synthetic opioids – most famously, the deadly fentanyl.
Designed to replicate the effects of established drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and heroin, NPS are synthesised in laboratories. They are cheap to produce and easy to transport. They are also extremely potent and often deadly. Originally developed for medicinal purposes, and then hijacked by rogue chemists, who change their molecular structures to stay ahead of the law, these chemicals’ effects can be impossible to predict. What we do know is that they have triggered the biggest drug epidemic that America has ever seen, and which is now spreading internationally.
In Fentanyl, Inc., award-winning journalist Ben Westhoff goes undercover to investigate the shadowy world of synthetic drugs — becoming, in the process, the first journalist to infiltrate a Chinese fentanyl lab. He tracks down the drug baron in New Zealand who unintentionally helped to start the synthetic-drug revolution; prowls St. Louis streets with a former fentanyl dealer to understand how the epidemic started; and chronicles the lives of addicts and dealers, families of victims, law enforcement officers, and underground drug-awareness organisers in the US and Europe. Fentanyl, Inc. is essential reading on a global calamity we are only just beginning to understand.
‘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
‘In Fentanyl, Inc., Ben Westhoff lays bare the twisted history that led to opioids wreaking havoc on twenty-first century America. If you want to understand the bloody cycle of addiction and death gripping the nation, you need to read this book.’
Ioan Grillo, author of El Narco and Gangster Warlords
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.’