Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2015)

Nobody can do it on their own but no drug dealer, nor cartel, can stand against families, schools, churches, and communities united together.”

I believe I had heard mentions of this book on the floor of the Missouri Senate from Senator Rob Schaaf. It wasn’t until I listened to an interview that I felt compelled to purchase the book and read it for myself.

Driving home from a meeting in Kansas City I was catching up on my podcast listening. While traversing the curves of Highway 87, Russ Roberts introduced Sam Quinones on Econtalk. I felt the interview with Dreamland’s author was so intriguing I immediately bought the book on Amazon the moment I arrived home.

I was not disappointed when I opened the cover.

Having been involved in the PDMP debate in Missouri the past few years I find the opioid subject very intriguing.

For those who haven’t followed the debate, a Prescription Drug Monitoring Database tracks any Schedule II or Schedule III drugs that a doctor may prescribe to you. Doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement, and government bureaucrats then have access to monitor this data to ensure you aren’t breaking the law.

Missouri is the only state in the union without a PDMP and supporters tell us one is required to stop doctor-shoppers, individuals that drive to multiple doctors seeking opioid prescriptions.

Was the prevention of doctor-shopping worth this invasion of privacy?

Were there other issues, like diversion (theft), that were contributing to our opioid epidemic?

I can say with certainty that I was grossly ignorant of the circumstances surrounding the opioid epidemic, as I assume most of those currently debating a PDMP are.

Sam Quinones’ fascinating book begins with the history of morphine and heroin.

It tells the story about Purdue Pharma leading an aggressive marketing campaign that lied to doctors, stating Oxycontin was not addictive.

It tells the story of physicians now armed with false data from Purdue but having little training in pain management themselves, prescribing narcotics at ever increasing rates.

It tells a story of the families who succumbed to the morphine molecule because they first trusted the good will of their doctors.

Then it tells a story of the doctors who pushed the legal limits of drug dealing and the heroin pushers from Mexico who took their customers from the pill mills, offering a far cheaper and easier to acquire substitute.

As the PDMP debate is likely to continue, I would highly recommend every legislator in the Missouri General Assembly read this book. I wish I had the ability to send each of our legislators a copy.

Maybe then we wouldn’t find ourselves, ten years from now, in the same place Florida now finds itself. Having passed their PDMP in 2011, Governor Rick Scott has said they finally need to get tough on opioid abuse.

The greatest bits of knowledge I took from the book were:

  • All opioids are addictive.
  • Anyone who takes an opioid can become an addict.
  • Unless necessary, if a doctor offers a narcotic for pain, you should question them.
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