“The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection.”
The history of the War on Drugs is not simple. It wasn’t started with pure motives to help people stop or not start using drugs – corruption, racism and securing government funding were all part of it, too. Chasing the Scream explains the history of drugs in America and some other European countries and shares personal stories to explain the ways in which the War on Drugs harms society and how addiction might be more about human connection than powerful drugs. Chasing the Scream is a book that will make readers critically examine their own thoughts on if and what drugs should be legal or illegal.
A friend of mine highly recommended Chasing the Scream, especially after reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Dreamland by Sam Quinones. It definitely adds another point of view to the current drug/opioid crisis facing America and Europe. I was able to get the e-book from my library through the Libby app after just waiting a week.
Johann Hari does extensive research to figure out the reasons America went from a place where narcotics could be bought at the drugstore to a place where youth are arrested for minor drug charges and have a record that affects their entire future. She shares the stories of Harry Anslinger (the government worker in charge of the beginnings of the War on Drugs), Billie Holiday, a drug dealer, a teenager recruited to be a hitman for a Mexican drug cartel and a few others directly impacted by the War on Drugs. The second half of the book discusses studies on addiction and places where they have tested different ways to make drugs legal and safe to use. The book ends with the current cases of marijuana becoming legal in certain places in the United States.
I am still processing this book, but it definitely challenged my thinking and made me consider some arguments I had never heard before. It is a book for adults and many sections were hard to read as it describes abuse and violence. I would still highly recommend this book, especially to people who have read Dreamland or Hillbilly Elegy. I think the most impactful argument in the book is that human connection is key to fighting anything that has a bad influence in our society. We are made to connect and without connections, we look for things to fill the void.