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Johann Hari’s new book, Chasing The Scream, provides a broad (but not deep) history of the War on Drugs. He offers not only a convincing case for why it is counterproductive and self-defeating (it’s been said before) but why everything we think we know about addiction is wrong and why — without addressing addiction and its causes — the the war is an exercise in futility.
The book engages with a variety of viewpoints from both sides: Not just the usual prohibitionist and harm reduction positions, but also the viewpoints of law enforcement officials as well as (unusually) those of a variety of drug users.
The book comes with endorsements (on the cover, no less) from Glenn Greenwald, Stephen Fry, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and — somewhat be musingly — Elton John. I know that one or more of these names is the mark of doom for many Ricochetti, but the book contains compelling arguments and statistics worth addressing nonetheless.
It’s worth further noting that Hari has previously been accused of plagiarism and making sloppy quotations. This book seems to be an attempt to redeem himself in this sphere: Not only is it copiously footnoted, it has referenced interviews — the original sources data, if you will — available for listening to on his website.
The book was given to me by a friend who was — and perhaps still is — a drug addict and who went to jail for it. So, it also comes with at least one real-life (thinking) addict’s endorsement of the insights it claims.
I know that some among us are legal, medical, and law enforcement professionals who regularly deal with the results of drug use and the War on Drugs. I’d be very interested if any of you have read the book and, if you have, what you think of its arguments.
With the Republican primaries switching into high-gear, public debate in America is being monopolized by some big items: the Iran deal, ISIS, the deficit, etc. What, if anything, is being said by any of the presidential hopefuls — Republican or Democrat — about the drug war at home? If not much, isn’t it an important enough subject to merit some serious analysis, discussion and airtime?Published in