How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic
Fentanyl, Inc. is a deeply-reported investigation into the headline-making and rapidly evolving landscape of synthetic drugs, the ways they are invented, produced, distributed, the lives they destroy, and the growing efforts to counteract their damage.
Fentanyl is “the deadliest drug in America” (CDC 2018), a synthetic opioid constantly in the headlines today. It can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin; some of its analogues even stronger, and a tiny amount can overwhelm the respiratory system. Of the 70,000-plus deaths from drug overdoses in 2017, over 28,000 were caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl (compared to 16,000 from heroin and 15,000 from prescription opioids).
All major synthetic drugs originated in legitimate laboratories for proper scientific purposes, but were hijacked by rogue chemists.
This is the first book to detail how illicit fentanyl is produced. Westhoff’s revelations about China’s chemical and pharmaceutical industries are headline-making—no other American has penetrated China’s chemical industry. A Congressional subcommittee concentration on the opioid epidemic has reached out to him with a view to his presenting what he knows about China. He has also been approached to give a TEDx talk and to speak at opioid conferences.
Readers of other bestsellers on the opioid crisis—Sam Quinones’s Dreamland (250,000 copies sold), Beth Macy’s Dopesick (bestseller list), Johan Hari’s classic Chasing the Scream—or of Misha Glenny’s various books, are the natural audience for Fentanyl, Inc.
Where Dreamland, Dopesick, and Chasing the Scream concentrate on the drug crisis in America, Fentanyl, Inc. is both a U.S. and a global story.
Westhoff first learned about the scourge of synthetic drugs as a journalist covering huge music festivals that saw a sudden rise in deaths of attendees taking drugs they thought were safe.
Westhoff is an award-winning and fearless investigative journalist who has written for Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Village Voice, Vice, among other outlets. His most recent book, Original Gangstas, illuminated the world of West Coast rap and has sold 25,000 copies in all formats. All of his writing features vivid narratives, compelling characters, and rigorous reporting.
Ben Westhoff: Ben Westhoff is an award-winning investigative reporter who writes about culture, drugs, and poverty, and has advised officials at the top levels of government about the fentanyl epidemic. His previous book Original Gangstas is the definitive work about West Coast hip-hop. He came up in the alternative weeklies Riverfront Times and L.A. Weekly and has also written for the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, the Guardian, and Vice.