#BookReview – CHASING THE SCREAM: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs


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.

Published: March 2016

Amazon / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

My Review

My thoughts on this book: Buy it. Read it. Buy it for your family and friends. Tell them to read it. Then maybe read it again.

This is an exceptional, vital, compelling, powerful read. The author’s research is impeccable. His delivery is flawless.

By conjuring this Communist conspiracy into existence in the 1950s, Harry found a way to turn his failure into a reason to escalate the war. Drug prohibition would work – but only if it was being done by everyone all over the world. So he traveled to the United Nations with a set of instructions for humanity: Do what we have done. Wage war on drugs. Or else. Or all Harry’s acts, this was the most consequential for us today.

I’m not going to rehash facts or give you the highlights of the book. You’ll need to read it for that information. Instead I’ll tell you that I’ve seen addiction up close and personal. It’s ugly and destructive. I don’t advocate drug use, but I also know that tossing addicts in prison, destroying what is left of their lives while costing taxpayers millions of dollars a year, is not the answer. And despite decades of doing just this, drug use continues to prevail and expand.

If your problem is being chronically starved of social bonds, then part of the solution is to bond with the heroin itself and the relief it gives you. But a bigger part is to bond with the subculture that comes with taking heroin – the tribe of fellow users all embarked on the same mission and facing the same threats and risking death every day with you. It gives you an identity.

Our drug war is clearly not working. In fact, it has only caused further damage to families, to our nation, and to the world. We desperately need a rational, intelligent public conversation regarding drug use and drug laws, and reading this book is the perfect starting point.


Thanks for reading. 🙂