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Fentanyl, Inc.
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About the Author

Ben Westhoff is an award-winning investigative reporter who has covered stories ranging from gangland Los Angeles to Native American blood feuds to government corruption. He has written at length about music and culture, his entry point to the world of synthetic drugs, in Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Village Voice, Vice, Oxford American, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. He is the author of two previous books: Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap (Hachette, 2016), and Dirty South: Outkast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop (Chicago Review Press, 2011).

Reviews

'It's a sucker-punch of a read ... Westhoff exposes, with cinematic scope and reams of data, a new epidemic.'

-- Harriet Alexander * The Daily Telegraph *

'Groundbreaking.'

-- Eleanor Halls * The Telegraph *

'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

'This is an exceptionally useful and well-timed book. I hope anyone concerned about this era's new addiction epidemic will read it and put its messages to use. Ben Westhoff very skilfully combines pharmacology, politics, law enforcement, and gripping international intrigue in his account of America's number-one public health problem. I hope Fentanyl, Inc. is widely read and influential.'

-- James Fallows, award-winning journalist and author of China Airborne

'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 * Kirkus Reviews *

'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

'An information-packed work of reporting that traces the rise of designer drugs, including synthetic and/or more dangerous versions of weed, acid, and heroin, the last of which gives the book its title. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that's chemically similar to morphine and heroin, is the top cause of fatal drug overdoses in the United States. The most illuminating parts of the book are those that reveal the business practices of Chinese labs that supply illicit fentanyl to U.S. dealers. These labs are a source of death and destabilisation for our country, American officials say, while Chinese leaders contend that it's on us to deal with Americans' appetite for the stuff.'

-- Francie Diep * Pacific Standard *

'Westhoff explores the many-tentacled world of illicit opioids, from the streets of East St. Louis to Chinese pharmaceutical companies, from music festivals deep in the Michigan woods to sanctioned 'shooting up rooms' in Barcelona, in this frank, insightful, and occasionally searing expose ... Offers a truly multifaceted view of the landscape of fentanyl use and abuse. The disparate narrative strands he weaves together - including tragic stories of drug users, straightforward analysis of the history of opioid use, tension-filled episodes of drug runs and supplier meet-ups, and the humane and hopeful work of the 'harm reduction' movement-all come together to provide a more complex understanding of the rise of, and response to, the opioid epidemic. Westhoff's well-reported and researched work will likely open eyes, slow knee-jerk responses, and start much needed conversations.'

* Publishers Weekly *

'A fascinating book.'

-- Sean Moncrieff * The Moncrieff Show *

'Will assist policymakers, activists, and general readers in understanding better how to respond to the drug crisis that is only more intractable now.'

* Library Journal *

'So many substance abuse books are a mix of hysterical in tone and a disappointing 'paint by numbers' in their execution, but [Fentanyl, Inc.] really stands out for its research, journalism, and overall analysis ... It is also a great book on China, and how China and the Chinese chemicals industry works, backed up by extensive original investigation ... Definitely recommended.'

-- Tyler Cowen * Marginal Revolution *

'Timely and agonising ... [Westhoff's] book is the product of a four-year deep-dive into the world of designer drugs, and it's an impressive work of investigative journalism. He interviewed 160 people and visited laboratories all over the world; he even infiltrated a pair of Chinese drug operations.'

* USA Today *

'A history lesson on American drug use and drug laws, a crash course in chemistry and neuroscience, a multifaceted portrait of addiction, and a look at how harm reduction programs can atone for the failures of the War on Drugs ... A finely woven and accessible analysis of the connection between university chemistry professors, dark web sales, drug cartels, law enforcement, and the dealers and addicts dependent on it ... Westhoff is a skilled and empathetic biographer, and this gift serves the composite of the dealers, users, and bereaved of Fentanyl, Inc. ... It's in this focus on the human cost of the crisis, of empathy over criminalisation, that this accomplished book feels most urgently important.'

* St. Louis Post-Dispatch *

'The most frightening book of the year, and it's mandatory reading ... Epic ... This is a story about people, and Fentanyl, Inc. features a roster of villains and victims who stray far from movie archetypes.'

* Dig Boston *

'Setting Fentanyl, Inc. apart from most other books that focus on the supply-side of illegal drugs, Westhoff smartly avoids pro-drug-war narratives that push for an intensified law-and-order response to the proliferation of more potent synthetic drugs ... The War on Drugs and misguided law enforcement efforts have not stemmed the spread of fentanyl, but instead have contributed to its takeover, Westhoff carefully explains.'

* Filter *

'Extensively reported and vividly written ... Westhoff elevates his impressive examination of the opioid epidemic by reporting on the US government's failed war on drugs and the promise of innovative 'harm reduction' policies that recognise that 'Just Say No' is a losing proposition.'

* National Book Review *

'Westhoff looks at the new wave of synthetic drugs that are taking the opioid epidemic to a whole new deadly level. He managed to go undercover into one of the many labs in China where these drugs are being manufactured, and the results of his research there and elsewhere are terrifying ... Anyone who is interested in learning more about the opioid crisis, or has read Dopesick, is going to want to check this out.'

*

Omnivoracious, the Amazon Book Review

*

'A detailed and far-ranging investigation into the production, marketing, and usage of fentanyl reveals an intertwined business network that spans continents and kills thousands.'

* Shelf Awareness *

'In this gripping investigation, Westhoff recounts the deadly consequences of synthetically made drugs and how this phenomenon is beginning spread internationally.'

* Happy Mag *

'The way [Fentanyl, Inc.] looked at every aspect of the novel psychoactive substance trade was unique. From chemists manipulating chemical structures of precursors to fentanyl before countries can ban them, to the dealers, end users and those who want to change the way addiction is treated, Westhoff details it all ... this book is an eyeopener to anyone who reads it of just how coordinated and advanced the illicit drug trade is in aiming to get new highs to market at any cost.'

* Sam Still Reading *

'Fentanyl, Inc. is a wake-up call to us all. Shocking and unnerving.'

-- Judith Baragwanath * Noted *

'The information uncovered by Westhoff, an investigative reporter, will no doubt prove useful to lawmakers, addiction counsellors, and anyone else who is dealing with opioid addiction ... But where the book really shines is in Westhoff's ability to get inside the lives of his characters, from addicts like Henke and Schwandt, to the scientists who initially developed opioids, to the Chinese chemists who are manufacturing fentanyl knockoffs - and profiting hugely off the global rise of opioid addiction ... a feat of reporting, to be sure. And while the many details Westhoff uncovered are likely to leave some readers enraged, Fentanyl, Inc. is an important book that arrives at a key juncture in the opioid crisis.'

-- Arlene Weintraub * The New York Journal of Books *

'[E]pic ... like Breaking Bad, sure - meets Night of the Living Dead meets New Jack City, Gummo, Kids and Gremlins, with a cast from a lot of the places on President Donald Trump's 'shithole' list ... Westhoff includes ample relevant history.'

-- Chris Faraone * Little Village *

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

* Kirkus *

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.'

* Rolling Stone *

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