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tv   In Depth Sam Quinones  CSPAN  June 11, 2022 2:00pm-4:01pm EDT

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impact of synthetic drugs. host: author sam quinones, what do portsmouth, ohio, los angeles, boston, and columbus, ohio all have in common? sam: great question.
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good to be with you, peter. they all have in common that they are part of the large tapestry of the addiction epidemic that is now coast to coast. i would have said a few years ago, the opioid addiction epidemic, but i do believe that has changed in the last few years with the addition of methyl fed and one into the mix -- methamphetamine into the mix. both of these drugs have taken the place in the old school, not that long ago of opioid painkillers and heroin. what connects all of those towns and many others is both of these drugs are coast to coast and this is the first time we've ever seen that in the history of
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our country. you've never seen one coast cover the entire the united states with one drug, much less to and that source is the mexican drug trafficking on the western coast of mexico up to sinaloa, but most of the pacific northwest, northwest of mexico. they have such in norma's production capacity for the synthetic drugs that they have covered the country. vermont has met and didn't use too. l.a. has fentanyl and didn't use too. all of these towns are covered in the stuff and this is what ties a lot of these towns together, that we are all part of the same story. it used to be drug use was very
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regional. you used to have one story here and 500 miles away, the story would be very different. that is no longer the case. it's covered the entire country in and fentanyl. you can make them from chemicals, there are no plans involved, you don't need to grow them under the sun, no farmers are needed to harvest them. the production capacity in mexico has outstripped anything we've seen before and that has allowed them to cover the country in these two drugs and that's one of the main reasons, one of the main things that connects the towns you mentioned and many others. host: could you have chosen any five cities in america given what you just said? sam: pretty much, sure. there is some towns where the methylphenidate hasn't really
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made inroads. new jersey, parts of new york, but by and large, you can find the same stories with varying degrees of intensity all across rural parts of the country, indiana, ohio, west virginia, oregon, albuquerque, skid, on and on. that's one of the things that is absolutely new about what we are seeing. that is that there are two drugs and they are everywhere. of course, they are extraordinarily it -- extra nearly potent. fentanyl is the most dangerous drug we've seen on her street and methylphenidate drives people to symptoms of schizophrenia. i'm trying to think of some areas i couldn't. i think every part of the
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country has these issues. host: let's go to fentanyl for a minute. that was developed in a lab in the united states in the 1950's. sam: it was developed in belgium by 19 it -- in 1959 by one of the great scientific minds of the 20th century, paul jensen. he owned jensen pharmaceutical and it's a compound in a small town. the man was one of the most fertile minds. he developed many drugs of enormous benefit to humankind and fentanyl is one of them. fentanyl revolutionized surgery. it made it so you could do all kinds of surgery that wasn't possible because it allowed people to bring you into anesthesia and out of it very ugly.
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i've had fentanyl -- i had a heart attack and they gave me fentanyl. it is a standard drug that has been applied in surgery tens of millions of times all across the country. it was controlled only for the use of anesthesia and surgical settings because they knew it's potency because it was key to the surgical environment. it made it extra nearly dangerous in the hands of people who did not know what they were doing. that's effectively what has happened since 2013, 14, 15, 16, you've seen the explosion of fentanyl in the other world -- in the underworld. when you don't have a clue what you are doing, it becomes extraordinarily deadly. the chemical cousins of
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fentanyl, all of these different little tweaks, molecular tweaks, this molecule will turn it into a slightly different drug. sometimes even more potent than fentanyl. paul jensen wrote about these drugs in in a chapter in a book i did not understand well without the help of chemists. but he saw the enormous potency of these drugs was something to be aware of. i would say in the last 10 years, the underworld has discovered fentanyl and its enormous potency and profitability and the sense you no longer need if you are a heroin trafficker, you no longer need to grow poppies. according to whatever season,
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you can make this stuff all year round. all you need are the chemicals to be able to make this stuff. but fentanyl itself is a revolutionary drug and does wonderful things for surgery and patients like me. since the 60's. host: in your most recent book, the least of us, you right drug overdose fertility's surpass the totals of american deaths during the vietnam war. and we grown immune to this? sam: you know, maybe. i guess. it's hard to say. families who have been affected by it feel it viscerally every day. it lingers. it does not go away, the death of a loved one. but there is this feeling that
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these are drug users -- i think i had argued that, that there is a feeling that this is just one more year of ever rising statistics, ever rising death tolls and i'm afraid that may be blunting a little bit our response to this problem. it feels like -- on the other hand, there are more and more families every year affected by this problem, more communities, more churches, more groups of any kind and it seems to me to be expanding. i used to think when i wrote my first book on this topic, "dreamland" that everyone was for five degrees removed from an overdose death. anecdotally speaking, it feels more like to.
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you know somebody who knows somebody who has a relative who died. it absolutely feels like it has expanded all over the country and therefore cannot be ignored anymore. that is what is happening all across the country. i don't think this can be ignored. we may not have the same urgency of response we need to have, but i don't think it can be ignored anymore. host: according to the national institute on drug abuse, we are showing the chart on the air right now, you can see the rapid rise in fentanyl overdose deaths. it just takes off almost in a direct line straight up. sam: that begins once the underworld figures out fentanyl -- that happens beginning in about 2013, 14, 15. china by then has, chinese
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chemical companies, i should say, are advertising on the web and on the dark web, fentanyl. so a lot of dealers in the united states by the stuff, get sent to them through the mail -- this is how the initial invasion of fentanyl began to happen in those initial years. it comes to people who view fentanyl as their lottery ticket . they've all the sudden won the lottery and the prophets are going to be through the roof. the problem is fentanyl is the first drug the profits of which are tied to you being able to mix it because fentanyl is so potent, the equivalent of a few grams of salt will make you high, -- a few grains of salt will make you high, few more will kill you. it's not commercially possible as a street dealer. so what you need to do is mix it
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with a lot of inert chemicals and powders that don't do anything. the problem is nobody on the street knows how to mix this stuff. they have proven themselves to be, on the contrary, absolutely miserable at mixing fentanyl. one of the chapters in "the least of us" talks about the occurrence, how often narcotics officers would raid these mix sites and some guy would have a mix site in his basement, a guy in his underwear, that kind of thing, and they would find this guy come all over they were finding this, that people were mixing their fentanyl in magic bullet blender's. your audience will know magic will it blunders from target and infomercials. they are great. we own a magic bullet lender in our house.
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it's a magnificent instrument when you want to make salsa's and smoothies. it's uniformly awful when you try to mix a powder. it's for mixing liquids. when you try to mix a powder, it does a very bad job. but folks were mixing fentanyl in magic bullet blenders and coming up with mixes that were horribly uneven and therefore some parts of what they mixed had nothing in it and other parts had enough fentanyl to kill three people. so you begin to see these clusters of overdoses. if your number in 2014, 2015, you begin to see it in cincinnati and akron, places first sit by the opioid epidemic where the dealers were very attuned to what would be next on the opioid horizon. they began to mix the fentanyl they are getting mailed to them from chinese chemical companies, they begin to mix the stuff with magic bullet lender and that is why you see this really awful
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mix and you see these clusters that in a weekend, 75 overdoses in a weekend. that begins to change once the mexicans taken over in about 2016, 17. not entirely changed, but you get away from the most egregious effects from all of this. fentanyl has now been discovered by the mexican underworld and they are producing it in catastrophic quantities and smuggling it through the border they share with a country that has a free-trade agreement with mexico, so you get in norma's quantities of these drip -- in norma's quantities coming in these trucks through border quat -- through border crossings. hence the quantities are geometrically larger than they ever were when the chinese
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chemical companies were sending a pound at a time through the mail. host: your first two books, "true tales from another mexico" and antonio's gun and delfino's dream, dealt with mexican cultures and went into migration and immigration as well. are your last two books natural outflows from these first two books? sam: sure. yes. i -- the way i got on to dreamland in the first place was because i was wanting to write about this one town in mexico, i was wanting to write about mexican heroin traffickers. i had a significant background -- i lived in mexico for 10 years and i wrote a lot about
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mexican immigration, visited many, many villages in various places where people had migrated , so that migration story to me was a very familiar one. it is because of that i happened on the story about this one village, a small town in a small state. i'd never been there, it did not count for much because it was so small. this small little town on the pacific coast just south of sinaloa, the drug center of mexico, where these guys had developed a method for selling black tar heroin very similar to pizza delivery. a delivery system for black tar heroin. you would set up a system in a
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town and you would have an operator standing by taking orders, telephone orders, and you would have several drivers driving around the town, their mouths full of little balloons with 10th of a gram doses and say go meet the person at the burger king parking lot and he wants five. you get there, meet that guy, spit out five doses and he would pay you and that was their system. this system spread throughout. i thought this was a fascinating system. i'd never seen this before. they use no guns, they were very much about trying to be nonviolent. not try to be about vengeance and shootouts and so on. so then, from their, i went down to this village.
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it looks very much like every other village i've been to where people have migrated to the united states. but along the way, i began to understand the reason these guys have this new market for selling their heroin and i could see it was expanding. in fact, they had crossed the mississippi river, was because of this other story that was much bigger, huge story that i did not understand at all, which was about our revolution and pain management and expansion of the use of opioid painkillers and all kinds of ways with numerous refills. a great, aggressive liberalization of the use of opioids which i did not understand at all at the time when i started this. i didn't really know what oxycontin was or vicodin or
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percocet. i was in mexico and i was oblivious to it entirely. so, when i came back, i was focused so much on the heroin guys that for a long time i did not realize the reason they had a growing and expanding market across the country was because we had exploded the amount of opioid painkillers had exploded and those painkillers contained drugs that are chemical cousins, very similar to heroin and people were getting addicted to them and switching to heroin, which is why the guys i was writing about have this burgeoning new market. it was a revelation to me and that meant i had a huge learning curve. it was not the village in mexico, i knew that story fairly well. to me, the big story i had to cover was pain management,
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although things connected to pain management and addiction at that kind of thing. i could not have started on this track since 2009. with out my background in mexico. in fact, i don't understand how anybody writes about drug trafficking, drug use without understanding mexico because almost everything abused in this country comes from or through mexico. host: sam quinones has covered migration, immigration and the drug epidemic for many years and was quoted in the los angeles times as saying i've followed the debate on illegal immigration for more than 20 years during which time i worked as a journalist in mexico and the u.s.. the issue has dominated, i come to believe, by america's desire
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to have it all. we want cheap stuff and low prices and we want to luxuriate in complaints about strangers in our midst who don't assimilate as fast as we imagine our grandparents did. sam: i think that is very much still the case. i've often felt in many areas, the presence of illegal mexican immigrants is tolerated, sometimes even applauded because americans on one hand, we like this stuff they provide us. they work very, very hard and become very creative and innovative. there are many costs that come along with that. there is no free lunch, there are trade-offs in almost every part of life and this is no different.
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you have people who suffer and have suffered, particularly folks at the lower end of the economic spectrum of the united states economy. it struck me when i was living in mexico that we -- how do i put it -- a childish attitude that we wanted everything and wanted to be able to complain about everything. we want cheap labor, we want houses painted -- in l.a., if you want anything done to your house, it's going to be a latino immigrant that does it. we want all of that and they are cheap and they are extraordinarily talented guys. this has been an education for all of us and at the same time, we want to complain. it's almost like a melee's of america.
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people want everything and then complain about it. host: thank you for joining us for book tv's monthly in-depth program on an author and his or her body of work. we are talking with sam quinones about some of the issues you've heard discussed here, the drug epidemic, illegal immigration and migration, etc.. your participation is a big part of this program. here's how you can participate. the area code is 202-748-8200 for those of you in the east and central time zone. in the mountain or pacific time zones, you can call in at 202-748-8 201. you can also send a text message. this is for text messages only. 202-748-8903. we will also scroll through our
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social media content. at book tv is what you need to remember. you can make a comment or ask a question on social media and we will get to those in just a few minutes. most of your stories are about men. mostly young men in mexico are the ones working in this area. most of the stories in your books are about men. sam: yes, although i would say there are significant stories about women, angie odom -- their daughter come abella, that was the story i began with. i think when it comes to drug dealing and drug trafficking,
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it's basically a man's game, as is migration. not to say women don't do it, but is often times in every village i've into, it has been the men who have led from mexico. so those stories are a big part of the topics i'm writing about. however, the stories of angie odom, starla hoskin and bella, which are the thread in "the least of us" all the way through, and some other folks in their. one develops a tattoo removal nonprofit -- folks like that. i don't think i'm leaving women out of my stories. i think the drug trafficking world, as it stands, is largely
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a masculine world. that is reflected in the stories i write. host: "dreamland" when the national book critics circle award for that year. what do you mean by dreamland? sam: oh, wow. what do you mean by that i mean -- great question. first and foremost, dreamland refers to a swimming pool in the wonderful town of portsmouth, ohio. i want to shout out to all the folks in portsmouth, ohio. wonderful folks down there. it was a swimming pool that largely galvanize the community of portsmouth for decades, back when portsmouth had a lot of jobs, steel manufacturing, all of that kind of stuff. they had a lot of stuff and
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could support a thriving mainstreet and a lot of downtown churches and in enormous swimming pool that became the heart and soul of the town, a place people came to socialize. it was almost the size of a football field. everybody went there. i would say all the white people went there -- let's put it clearly there. a small percentage of black people in portsmouth were segregated from that, even when the pool was integrated, they did not feel quite at home there. this was a story about this pool that developed as the town blossomed, in a sense. you have people coming together and seeing one another, losing their virginity, romances forming and just a remarkable
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place of people coming together and as the town began to wither, the jobs left, the manufacturing went elsewhere. mainstreet was emptying. half the population leaves and in 1993, the tail end of all of this, the dreamland pool no longer has people enough to make a go of it, and they dig it up and turn it into a strip mall. to me, this was, i thought in a remarkable example of what i believe to be at the heart of our addiction epidemic which was our strip -- our shredding of community across this country. it is a place where people came together and when it was dug up, they all went indoors. the only place you actually saw anybody ever again was at
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walmart because mainstreet was a shell. to me, this became part of the theme of the book, which was to say the roots of the opioid epidemic at that time were in our own destruction of community, the shredding of community. we saw youth sports become club sports, so it's not about folks coming together to watch kids play, it's about training kids to be professionals and getting college scholarships. we saw a lot of community banks sucked up by larger banks. if you go across the country, you see all these ways in which we believe the free market was some kind of god and whatever happened with the free market was destined to be, but let -- benevolent and so on. it was a remarkable story, a
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powerful, painful story for that town but also a metaphor for what we had done to the entire country, shredding the things that brought us together. we make ourselves vulnerable. as i got into it, the book i was writing, i figured out it would be called dreamland about six months before i actually finished the book. most of the time i didn't know what the book was going to be called and it seemed dreamland was the perfect title. it also fit with narcotics. you drift off into a dreamland when you are on dope. a lot of traffickers, the mexican guys i was talking about earlier, they lived their own dreamland. there dreamland was to make a bunch of money selling dope, take that money back home and being the boss of the king, the big guy for six weeks or three months or something like that. be the guy who buys the beer for
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everybody. once the money is done, you don't have much choice. you are not going to go back to work in avocados or the sugarcane field. you are going to go back to sell dope in the united states. everybody has their own dreamland and maybe this is part of the theme. maybe we are all looking for this dreamland, easy answers to complicated questions. what was the complicated question? how do we solve american pain? the easy answer is how about opioid painkillers for everybody? that's a kind of dreamland as well. when's you extrapolate off the idea, you see how it fits in this topic and of course, it starts in the great town of
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portsmouth, ohio. host: inhost: portsmouth. let's bring our callers in. guest: you spoke about why we accept such deaths from drugs and covid -- i'm wondering about your comments -- have you thought of working with a neurobiologist or historian? it's a deeply toxic self interest you discuss in your books, self interest versus group interests. the capitalistic, survival of the fittest ideology that tried to justify scientifically racism and white supremacy in the 1960's with the first libertarians, gault and herbert spencer. what they were trying to show is how evolution works.
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wrongly, it is not competition, it's actually cooperation. and the benefits -- host: we have a lot to unpack there. let's hear from our guest. sam: this is a very interesting idea and one i'm still wrestling with and thinking about and writing about, but i do believe you are right. i try the beginning of the reagan administration but we also see it with the margaret thatcher administration, this move away from the collective ideal. all government is bad, government is part of the problem, and they were addressing real issues -- government had overstepped, but that doesn't mean the pendulum has to swing all the way to where it did and my feeling is, as it did and time went on, we
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lost sight because we were so prosperous certainly in this country, we felt we did not actually need one another. we didn't need that collective community approach to life. everything was done for us because we had every service you could possibly need. we began to believe we were exceptional. all of those rules don't apply to us. i think that's what began to happen, certainly with the reagan administration and as the pendulum began to swing and you begin to see all of these towns -- a good example is you want free trade, there are arguments for that but you have to do something for those towns that have lost those factories that go to mexico, go to malaysia or china in colossal numbers and it's almost as if we felt as a country that you lose, time for
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you to suck it up and rebound. it's your bummer, not ours. i think that was the prevailing attitude in this country, that i think became very damaging. self-reliance is an important thing but it is dependent on other people. it's counterintuitive but you cannot be self-reliant without the help of other people. we lost that, i think to a great degree. a symptom is the enormous, very entrenched drug addiction epidemic we are seeing coast-to-coast. you see it in other statistics like suicide, friendless and this, people are lonely, you see
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a lot of things like this. housing developments being built in the middle of nowhere so the next time you need to buy a loaf of bread, you have to get in your car for five miles. all of these things seem to be baked into american culture in the last 40 years and the effect has been to corrode that community that we took so for granted. it has enormous benefits to us and one is as a bulwark of defense against things like drugs. when you think about it, we evolved to be community beings. human beings evolved -- two absolutely need it. we don't survive as a species without that movement toward each other that is essential. we got away in this country, and
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the last 40 years, we believed it did not really apply to us. so we are seeing a lot of things sociologists and mental health experts and on and on are noting about our culture -- the mass shooting phenomenon, all of that kind of stuff because we have shredded all that brought us together and that dreamland pool and the jobs that went away and the main street that had to buckle under to walmart. all of that is part of the same story. host: you brought up walmart which plays a role. what is that role? sam: yes. walmart is first of all a sign you have no more main street in small-town america. it's a sign your main street is dead or dying or may have been the reason your main street is dying.
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but it is also a very important thing people don't understand about walmart -- it's also the place where, it's the lubricant of the drug trade in many towns. i heard this from too many addicts who convinced me of this. the reason for that is walmart does not put much money at all, certainly comparatively to other big-box stores, much money at all into preventing shoplifting. if you go to a target -- this is pretty common -- the aisles are wide, the lights are bright and you see target employees and the redshirts, 5, 6, 8 -- any time you visit the place. go to walmart, the aisles are narrow, the lights are dim and you rarely see a walmart employee, which means it is extraordinarily easy to rip off walmart.
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this is widely known, i want to assure you. every addict who is on the street i've ever talked to has come up with stories of how they ripped off walmart or their boyfriend or somebody close to them ripped off walmart. it was and i think may still be, but certainly from all the years we are talking about, the late 90's into just a couple of years ago, it was ridiculously easy to rip off walmart. what does that mean? it means all of those things stolen from walmart are traded for dope. t-bone steaks, x boxes, perfume, children's shoes, dealers in portsmouth, i wrote about how dealers would make lists -- go steal me this and i will give you half the list price. so if it is an $80 chainsaw, i
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will give you $40 worth of pills. some people, certainly in the town of portsmouth had shops made up of stuff, a certain kind of item they would rip off from walmart. one woman had a department for of baby stuff, another person had hardware. but what you find is it's ridiculously easy to rip off walmart and that is what is stolen feeds the drug dealers. and adds to it, lubricates the ripping off of walmart, because they are so common, because in many areas, it's almost only the reit -- almost the only retail option because it sells everything. it has become a place where people know i can rip off easily and take that stuff to my dealer and my dealer will give me dope
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for it. it becomes -- may well -- many walmarts have documented this. it's become a huge drain on police department time in whatever town you happen to be. i was talking to folks in paducah, kentucky. they found the two walmarts in the town accounted for 15% of total officer time and when year. because handling shoplifting complaints because walmart has built into its stores almost an ease with which people can rip it off. all of that stuff ends up somewhere. some people are stealing so they have enough to eat, a lot of people are stealing for their dope. i think a lot of people, a lot of the loss comes from people who work at walmart. they are the ones, i'm not going to disparage folks who work there, but they are not paid
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enough to care. they don't care too much when they see people walking through the doors, they are not going to confront some guy and say i will let him go. but walmart became a crucial element in why particularly in certain areas, appalachia, rust belt areas, why you saw the spread of the opioid epidemic so quickly, because it was lubricated so quickly by all the shoplifting that goes on. walmart has not done enough, maybe be doing more now, but has
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not done enough to put a lid on. -- guest: i'm a retired law professor. before i was a lawyer -- i will be 70 in a few months. i did a couple of studies on heroin users and a couple of articles, i just wanted to say for you and for folks and get your comment on what do we do now type of thing? i have a study that i wrote with david musto at yale. it's a follow-up study from a clinic from 1920 and it was published in the new england journal of medicine, april 30,
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1981. soon after that, the new york times did an editorial on it called an old way to help addicts about the morphine maintenance clinics. they were all over the country. this was a way where addicts were not stigmatized. they were allowed to buy their morphine, so naturally, the police and police stations, this has existed up into the present day in places like vancouver. host: i think we got enough there. let's get a response from sam quinones. sam: that is an approach that continues to this day and part of it is under the heading of what they call medically assisted treatment which
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involves certain medications, occasionally opioids of a lower potency to calm cravings or blunt overdoses. it's very important. it needs to be out there and needs to be in far wider use, it seems to me because particularly you have fentanyl out there doing enormous damage. you do have experiments now beginning in vancouver and new york city with what are called safe consumption, the addict will go into this place and use your drug in the presence or nearby a nurse who can then revive you if you then overdose
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on whatever it is you are using. supposedly, and i think a lot could be going on. i have not visited one yet. this is a place where you are introduced, nudged, perhaps urged to consider drug addiction treatment. i would say this approach is an interesting one. i don't think we are in a situation where we should say no to anything but i also think we should say this. there's a saying on the street that fentanyl changes everything . from my vantage point, that could not be more true. fentanyl means people are dying very, very quickly. there is no long-term user of sentinel on the street. heroin, you could last 20, 30 --
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i've met people who have lasted 40 years. not a great life, but they are not dead. that's not happening with sentinel. the idea being we will just revive them with this drug called narcan or naloxone, it revives you once you are having an opioid overdose, very good, it keeps people alive. the problem is with this is i think what may come to pass is you have people who are using, they are going into overdose, and every time you overdose, that's not a neutral event. you are overdosing -- the definition of an overdoses when you are deprived of oxygen. your brain shuts down in your gradually deprived of oxygen.
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any time you do that, you are going to risk brain impairment. every time someone is revived, that person risks brain impairment. you're fining people getting revived on the street nowadays, half dozen a dozen times, sometimes within the same day. it's not an uncommon thing. many paramedics have told me this. we have to find a way of making sure the second part of that safe consumption, the idea that this is to get people into treatment is what this is all about. there is an idea that we should meet them where they are and they are not at a point where they want to be getting off of dope, we just say ok. the problem with that is we know where those people are. they are at death's door. they are using fentanyl and they
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are going to die. that's not a debatable point. i can't imagine a one who would debate it. you are going to die on fennel the longer you use it. the idea behind safe consumption sites, when ever -- just keep using it and we will take care of it for you. those folks are not going to live long enough for that to happen. what may have been a perfectly fine option in the 80's with morphine, with fentanyl is a very different beast because fentanyl is a very different beast. even when people live and are revived, they still have this gradual, perceptible or imperceptible sometimes brain impairment. a fellow wrote me the other day and said our clients that come in with an eighth grade reading
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level. if those who have had six overdoses, their reading level drops to about second grade. those who have had to overdoses, they drop a reading level. something like that. this is not harm free. we need to be in the process of pushing people, nudging people, getting people aware they are not going to live with fentanyl on the street. it just won't happen. host: you are talking about the potency of drugs today -- these so-called designer drugs, they are a lot more potent and addictive than 20, 40 years ago? sam: without a doubt.
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and crucially prevalent. it's about supply. this is about how easy it is to come up with the stuff or how easy it is to find wherever it is you live. marijuana is a separate issue, but when it comes to things like math and fentanyl, which have -- crack is like a footnote so -- they are synthetic, they can be made with chemicals what what was important is the control of land. you can grow your marijuana, opium poppies, all that kind of stuff. you don't need any of that anymore with synthetic drugs. farmers, harvesting, none of
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that. you only need a laboratory away from the prying eyes of helicopters. what you need is shipping ports. there are two very large shipping ports close to this region that is central. there's one and there's another and these two ports, from these two ports, traffickers control a lot of the flow in those ports and can get access to any chemicals they want that are made in china or india or anyplace else. in almost unlimited quantities. that means they are now able to make these drugs in quantities -- as i said at the outset, they
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are covering from l.a. to skidrow, you've got those drugs everywhere and that's largely because they control this ports for this chemicals come in, you can make simply staggering quantities of these drugs, enough again to do the unprecedented thing of covering the country with both of them. at the same time, we don't have much history with fentanyl and the price of meth as they cover the entire country has dropped by 70%, 80%. in nashville, it was $19,000 a pound, now it's $3000 a pound. it is a remarkable thing and
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very scary. because it's everywhere. that is the problem. when i lived in mexico, i never wrote much about the drug world. i was a freelancer and let other reporters -- let some big media corporation, i'm a freelancer, loner, i don't have any background, so i covered immigration because it -- because that was a more important topic at the time. but if you asked me about drugs and drug trafficking, i agree with the typical mexican idea that all drugs begin with demand and supply follows demand. i would say the last 12 or 13. writing these books on the topic have totally changed my opinion on that. i believe now supply is paramount and supply is the reason, supply is the story when you talk about the opioid
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epidemic. we did not have this enormous population of the consumer before the expansion of the opioid dealer and all manner of pain and stuff promoted by pharmaceutical companies and prescribed by doctors. it's a catastrophic supply of the stuff and you see the mexican underworld taking over and we will supply basically almost the entire united states with this stuff. it's all about supply. you can't get away from it. it affects everything, how may people get addicted, how to treat it, law enforcement, on and on. that is an idea that occurred to me after i left mexico and i had a side was writing about this. host: sam quinones looks up the business organization of how drugs arrive in the united states, how the artist riveted,
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etc. chris is in indio, california. go ahead with your question or comment. guest: in a country that spends more money on drug sniffing dogs , addiction research has come up with what might be the silver bullet. this came out in the october 21 edition of pharmaceuticals -- that university of california irvine researched an ancient chinese herb that was found to inhibit tolerance. which means it can be used to abate addiction. have you heard about that? sam: i'm afraid i have not heard about it. i am easy to find online. if you want to send me a link to that study, i'm very interested in this kind of stuff, so i
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apologize for not having heard about that specific study but feel free to look me up and shoot me a link to it. host: cornelius, alexandria, louisiana. go ahead with your question or comment. guest: i'm curious because i've been listening and you are talking about how america has changed. i was a big ross perot patriot and stuff and he said that would be the giant sucking sound because both the democrats and republicans wanted to connect canada, u.s. and mexico. do you think this was the downfall of america? thank you, sam. sam: thanks for the question. it is a great one and you can spend books discussing it and it is a very valid question. i would say free-trade -- like everything in life, is about trade-offs.
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it's how you respond to those trade-offs that is crucial. we lost many jobs because of that and we also gained many jobs because of that. we have a lot of people working in different industries that never would have been there before. you have communities that did very well, particularly in the west. certain parts of the atlantic coast as well. various places, austin, texas, places like that. you also find places that were hammered, just hammered by this and the problem that i think took place was we didn't see it as important to deal with that. my feeling was i think this is largely true -- the jobs that left to mexico might well have left elsewhere as well.
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i don't think, however, we ever did enough to see what we could do as a culture or as a country to prevent those jobs living in the middle of free-trade. i don't see that we were taken by this kind of free-market religion which i think it kind of amounted to. therefore, anything that happens is going to be ok. there's no doubt as you travel through places like ohio, kentucky, indiana, etc. there are places like that. you can was pre-nafta. pre-free-trade. perhaps pre-globalization. how to than deal with that, how to find a solution in which other parts of the country can benefit but these parts of the country get our foremost attention.
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we never made that step. i testified in one of the more surreal moments in my life, i testified before the u.s. senate. friends of mine will think, how did this guy testify before the senate? but i did, thanks to lamar alexander and his health committee in the senate a couple years back. i said, it is appropriate to think in terms of a marshall plan for those parts of the country that have not been able to rebound the way we thought they would or they could from what they lost due to this deindustrialization. and i think that that, it is not a surprise in a lot of areas, that is where you find the beginnings of the joint epidemic as well. we all pay the price. it is about this idea, that is not concern me, i'm over here in the silicon valley, that is in
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west virginia, that is not matter to me. no, it does. it absolutely does. we cannot -- we are our brother's keeper, we cannot say, that is somebody else's problem. a text message for you -- host: a text message for you. you hinted to the cost of illegal immigration. would that include trafficking, etc.? what would you propose as a solution to illegal aliens in our country? sam: a lot of that is part of the mix. i was taking also frankly of schools and education. illegal immigration has been an enormously, i would say, frankly, a vibrant -- injection of vibrancy into our economy.
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i don't think it is a good idea that people who are here illegally are easily exploited. they are here providing unfair competition to american workers, frequently. but i think they are there because there is, again, we believe in the free market and the free market is saying we value these workers, they do essential work for us. there's always these other issues that the texter brings up, which are huge which affect american lives very clearly. it depends what, i think, frequently, what it depends on is the absolute position that one holds in the economy. if you are on the -- in the upper middle classes, you see immigration one way. if you are near the lower end, you are going to see it differently. i was in west side san bernardino years ago, a largely
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mexican-american, inhabited by people who came from mexico in the 1920's, now it is their grandchildren or great-grandchildren who are there. that is one of the staunchest anti-immigrant areas i have ever been in, because as two mothers he spent an hour telling me their perspective, which i value , these guys are coming up here, these mexican guys are invading, it was -- these are mexican-american families who are telling me these folks are invading, they should not be here, they are stealing the jobs , they are stealing the jobs that our kids need to have in the carwashes in the restaurants, those kinds of jobs. so there is this deep resentment. we are americans, we speak english, we don't even speak spanish much anymore, there was this feeling of we are not these folks, even though we have
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similar last names and we may go to the same catholic church, we are definitely different. from which point of view, which point in the economy you view immigration colors everything. people couple -- people in african-american communities, years ago when this issue was hotter than it is today, were extraordinarily articulate, let's say, on this issue, that folks were coming here, they were unfair competition, they were living 5, 6 guys to an apartment, we cannot afford to do that, and they are taking jobs that we cannot compete with at wages or hours a day that we cannot do. so all of that is part of this complicated mix. what to do about it, oh my god
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-- i don't know. to me, everything that has to happen has to happen by nationally. there cannot be a move with one country doing one thing and another is not doing anything. the same with drugs. host: robert, you are on book tv. caller: hello. thank you for taking my call. your assessment of the hollowing out of america due to reaganomics is a breath of fresh air. i often hear discussions. i don't hear it put in those terms. my question is, do you make the connection between the hollowing out of the industrial base, the job market, and the racism ronald reagan used and later the republicans used as a catalyst
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to get people, particularly white people, to vote against her best interests? sam: my posts are very narrowly focused on -- my books are very narrowly focused on the drug issue so that is not,, nor does -- that does not come up, nor does reaganomics, although i can see the connection, and the treatment of the free market is an almost quasireligious way. i studied economics in the 1970's and 1980's and found it to be a rigid discipline where marxism was a religion, frick market -- free market was a religion, it did not take into architect anything human and i kind of regret having studied at then, i think it would be more interesting today that it was in
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1980. i would, however, say that there is a lot to what you are talking about. there is a remarkable ability of political marketers, it seems to me, to push buttons that they keenly understand will move people to do certain things, even if it does not make sense that they are doing at, because they are benefiting wealthy people when these people are working and that kind of thing -- working-class and that kind of thing, and you can see it in a more pronounced way today. you can name several issues that would be pushbutton issues, abortion, guns, homosexuality, critical race theory, and some other stuff, just push those and
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people will respond. it does not matter what you actually mean by that or what the people who agree with you, what their policies are on that, it is just a way of pushing people's outrage and the neuroscience of outrage is a fascinating thing. we all evolved to have outrage because it is what police communities early on. it was a way of calling people out. you cannot do this, your behavior is hurting our community. but in order to do that, you had to step out into the public, you had to publicly accuse somebody, there had to be this cause that you had to bear. outrage now is not born by the people who feel it, they just feel it and it feels good, particularly on the entire political spectrum of cable tv
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news where you just see people saying, these people are bad, you are right, they are bad. it gets into complicated topics. it is an interesting thing. it originates in that time period you are referring to. now, it is taken to a whole new level, it seems to me, where people are just being prodded and pushed, social media, cable tv news, two of the most toxic and winces in our society, and i'm referring to fox news and cnn both, this is not journalism , this is media personalities prodding us with outrage. we become like those mice in the cage that hit the cocaine water over and over because it alarms our brains and we cannot get enough of it. we do not have cable tv news in our family at all, we turned off
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cable tv because of that. i could not stand it anymore. anyway, a long-winded answer to what you are asking. i do believe this is part of where we are now, this prodding to outrage and what that does is it makes people vote or support ideas that are contrary to their own best interests sometimes. host: i would say that c-span is founded and funded by the cable industry and we appreciate that very much. sam: there you go. host: rick is calling in from tennessee. you are on with sam quinones. are you with us? we have given rick two tries. i think that is enough. this is a text message from peggy in pennsylvania. since fentanyl is used medically , at what point is the fentanyl illegal as it comes across the border?
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how is it packaged and how is it taught? -- caught. sam: it is illegal because it is made illicitly, following fda guidelines -- not in a factory following fda guidelines. then it is packaged, you name it , that is one of the big stories of today is the amount of supply they had been able to produce in mexico has forced them to innovate in terms of how it is packaged. what you are finding the last few years, you are finding counterfeit pills coming over by the tens of millions now. starts in the thousands, now it is up to the tens of millions. you are finding counterfeit
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pills that look like percocet or xanax or tylenol or oxycodone, blue pills, they press them, they make these pills look almost exactly like the real thing except these pills have nothing but fentanyl. they make so much fentanyl, they are looking for ways of providing an administration vehicle and these administration vehicles are these little pills that look exactly like the legitimate versions that you see in pharmacies. so it is coming across like that, it is coming across by the kilo pack. most of this stuff is coming through border crossings, through heavily monitored border crossings that we simply don't have the staff, i don't think -- i think this is clear -- to search more than a small
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percentage of all the trucks that come across the border in a single day. it is huge numbers of trucks. because there is free-trade. host: steve in nebraska sends in a text, kind of follows up on peggy's. it seems obvious that the complicity of the mexican government is essential to the operations of the mexican cartels. are there any conceivable scenarios where this government complicity and corruption would change? sam: i would say that that is true when you say elements of the mexican government are complicit in this. the mexican government as a total, i'm not sure that is true. but enough to make this a major problem. i do believe, having lived in mexico 10 years, i don't view mexico with any rose-colored glasses, i love mexico, i spent great years down there, i'm also
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clearly aware of issues that the country has with regard to corruption that the texter mentions. we need a sustained, collaborative, corrective approach between both countries. both countries bring something to this very wobbly table. the mexican side, a criminal justice system that is not only corrupt, it has been underfunded, corroded, it is not have the same stability and morale and training that we enjoy here in our law enforcement in the united states. this is important. you can see the difference if you go to el paso whereas -- el paso juarez. el paso has i think 15 to 20
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homicides a year. juarez, 3000. many more. even though they are 200 yards across a river from each other. you can see the grave difference, grave disparities. in mexico, they have invested in local government. we enjoy a remarkably resilient and flexible and innovative local government we are in mexico, i have covered many places in mexico, it still is backward, even though they have come a long way since i was there, it is still far to go. at the same time, it is important to understand that the reasons why that impunity and that corruption, one of the reasons that exists is because they have armed themselves with guns that were bought legally
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and easily in this country, primarily assault weapons, which become the weapon of choice for the mexican drug cartels, not easily and cheaply -- bought easily and cheaply and the united states and smuggled to mexico. those words are being fought with guns, the statistics i read are 62% to 70% purchased in the united states. the assault weapons that we have been talking about because of the mass shootings, because they are legal, you can buy them anywhere, they are cheap, they are easy, they have been the main fuel in mexico's drug war for a long time. we need to do something about the guns that is feeling that impunity that allows for massive supplies of meth, of fentanyl to be produced in mexico and
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funneled up here to the united states. it is all about supply. supply of guns, supply of dope. there is a symbiotic relationship when it comes to the cartels between the two. host: two popular series, ozark on netflix and queen of the south as well, deal with the mexican cartels and drug use in the united states. have you watched those? sam: i watched ozark for a couple years, then they killed off all the characters i liked, so i stopped watching. i was like, jimmy is that, i'm not going to watch no more. host: was there reality and what we were seeing? sam: i would say that the reality -- when you begin to see torture and public murder in the united states, that does not
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correspond to reality. for a very good reason. what i was just talking about, the mexican drug trafficking world, which is cartels and a bunch of smalltime operators and family networks and village-based networks, all selling drugs, some of them organized, some of them less so, but they are all very clear that you don't commit these kinds of heinous crimes down in mexico that you're doing down in mexico up in the united states because you will go to prison. there is a rule of law when it comes to that. that is extraordinarily important. the rule of law is a precious thing and when you lose it, you lose so much. i saw this when i lived in mexico. the rule was a tenuous thing in a lot of places.
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i would say that you've got these depictions of people who are up in the united states committing horrible torture -- i'm not saying it never happens, but it's good business reasons why that really is not the norm. you have, in fact, on the contrary, in certain areas i have been reporting and in the past, i would say colorado is one for example, you have different cartel groups, different trafficking organizations that may be at each other's throats in mexico, they are coexisting, sometimes collaborating in colorado or other parts of the country because it is about a business. this is about business, making money, everyone is clear on that, and that is why you don't go committing these especially heinous crimes. not that no one has ever murdered behind the stuff. you just don't see the kinds of stuff that in mexico they have
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had to get used to with piles of body and people hanging from the overpass and beheadings, all of the stuff that never existed -- i lived in mexico from 1994 to 2004, i traveled by bus everywhere. i went up to the border, all these kinds of places, no problem ever. well, one time. and now, it is very difficult. but a lot of is because they have easy access to the weapons that are now on the news because of these mass shootings and because people don't -- because people buy them here easily and smoker themselves. host: character, you are on with sam quinones. derek is in albuquerque. sam: great town. caller: i was going to ask you if you have ever been through here. sam: many times. caller: i will wrap this up as
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quick as possible. i'm a recovering addict and i recovered in 2012 through medicaid assistant treatment. the fentanyl problem here in albuquerque has overtaken our city. my uncle died of an overdose eight months ago. it is so prevalent in our town. one more thing, i liked what you said, the drugs come here, the guns and the money go back there. that is why we have such a problem. i wanted to see if you have -- if you think there's any solution to this besides massive rehab and people dying every day at massive numbers. host: before we get an answer, you say you got sober in 2012, what was your drug at that point? caller: i started off using pills, the blue pills he was talking about.
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as the prescriptions and medication clinics made it to get harder, i switched to heroin and i had to get medicaid assistant treatment using methadone to get off of the heroin. host: thank you. sam: congratulations, good 4 u for you, keep going. very impressive achievement. i know how hard it can be. you keep going. feel free to get in touch with me on email, i would love to talk further with you about this. what you probably know to be true is if you had been using now, you might not have survived. because there is fentanyl in everything. that is the point. fentanyl changes everything and everybody dies. if you are on the street, you're going to die. the only option is you must get off the street, get treatment. we have to provide that for people.
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i would say, you are right, you who live in albuquerque, a town i love, my first two books were published by the university of new mexico press so i have been to albuquerque a good number of times as well as new mexico. i think that dope that comes in is paid for in the money go south along with the guns. it is important for americans to understand how many of the guns that we buy and sell, it is so easy to do, anybody can do it, how many of the guns are ensuring down in mexico that they can produce these catastrophic amounts of dope, drugs, fentanyl and method for mean. it is all part of the symbiosis between the two countries. you cannot produce this kinds of dope without vast weaponry that
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is unceasing, it keeps on coming. that is what they get. the assault rifles -- cartel wars that we are experiencing now and for the last good number of years really began to escalate the year after, in the united states, we allowed the assault weapon band to expire. that may be a coincidence, i don't know, but what i can say, as i said before, the guns that are being purchased here and smuggled south are making a certain that those guys can use their corruption, use a variety of other tools at their disposal, to produce enough methamphetamines so that the price drops from $90,000 to $3000 a pound in nashville -- $19,000 to $3000 a pound in nashville.
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that fentanyl that is killing everybody, that is the price of those easy to buy guns, particular the assault weapons, going south. assault weapons are priced because they are in a war. these are guys in wars with each other, sometimes with the military. keep this in mind. host: something you write about, and this is a text message to you, what would happen if drugs were legalized in the u.s.? perhaps treated like alcohol? sam: well, that is an excellent question. i have a few things to say about that. i have gone back and forth on this topic many a time and it is always worth bringing up and batting around because it is important. clearly, illegal drugs fuel mafias. we saw that with prohibition. legal drugs result in far more
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use than when they were illegal, very clear. you can see that with alcohol, i think, you can see it with a lot of different things. when you make stuff legal and toe from there, then it becomes more socially acceptable to do it, therefore you have to plan for the inevitable aftereffects or side effects from that increased use. we will always need jail because jail -- what is the drug that lands most people in jail? alcohol. we will always need jail because of that. we will always need some way of dealing with the aftereffects or side effects of legalization. i would like to see, i guess
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personally, i would like to see us legalize one drug well, and right now, we are mangling the job with marijuana, in my opinion. think about it. what is one of the great lessons of the opioid epidemic? i believe this is one. be careful. be careful what very potent drug you make legal and widely available with outlandish claims about its risk-free nature. that is a whole story of opioids in our country. you can say, maybe we should make these trucks legal. but the opioid epidemic starts with legal drugs. it is not an illegal drug that starts this, it is doctors and pharmaceutical companies promoting this, and this brings me to another part of this topic that i wrote about in the least of us, and that is to say that i
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don't believe in fact that we have the kind of culture in america that will tolerate, has much appetite for the kind of government regulation that would be required to successfully legalize a drug in america. other countries may be able to do it. i don't know that we are there as a culture. i think we have -- we bridle too much against government intrusion and regulation. we are in the middle of climate change, an existential threat to this planet, and yet, in california and other places, we have made it legal to sell marijuana that has been grown indoors. this is a weed that grows outdoors perfectly. we are growing at indoors with an enormous carbon footprint.
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why? have economic interests. it does not benefit anybody else. my feeling is, we do not have in this country the appetite for the kind of serious regulation that would be necessary to legalize drugs successfully. marijuana is a disaster, it seems to me. it loses track of all the lessons we shared -- we should have learned in prohibition. after prohibition was over, we did not legalize all of this bathtub hooch and allthe pot woh versions of marijuana -- vapes that are 90 percent thc, the active ingredient in marijuana. seems like we need to step back, go very slowly, very cautiously,
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take our time and be aware that we are really, really bad at this. we don't know what we are doing. instead, we are just opening up the doors. it feels in some states, maybe just generally, it feels like alcohol pre-prohibition, which is anything goes. you want 90% thc vapes? fine. i think it feels to me like before we start talking about legalizing heroin and methamphetamine, i would say how about let's do marijuana cautiously, humbly, slowly, really slowly, and do it right instead of just rushing in because certain economic interests, it is in their interest to want us to do that. there's a great book called "blitz." the one country that legalized methamphetamine.
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this book is about that country, it's about the third reich in nazi germany. they legalized methamphetamine. it seems to me there's at lessons about societal control when you start doing this. when i view it from the perspective i have been viewing it in the last couple of years, people say should we legalize drugs and i say that the opioid epidemic started with legal drugs. host: all four of sam quinones 'books are about people. he does opine about the legalization of drugs. i want to read a few select sentences to add to what he just said. business combines are now everywhere. we call them big pharma, big tech, big oil.
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now emerging is big dope. i don't trust american capitalism to do drug legalization responsibly. he goes on to write decriminalizing drugs also removes the one lever we have to push men and women toward sobriety. waiting around for them to decide to opt for treatment is the opposite of compassion and the drugs on the street are as cheap, prevalent and edley as they are today. this is a text message -- hi, sam, i'm 73 years old and have to use opioid prescriptions for pain management to control osteoarthritis which can be disabling because of the abusive opiates. i had to sign a contract with my general practitioner. he's is the only prescriber and no other doctor can be involved. i take the prescribed amount, no more. my insurance company monitors my prescriptions.
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people like me are subject to strict rules, so why aren't abusers monitored? sam: i would say yes, i would say we have changed a lot. i remember writing, when i was writing "dreamland" none of that was true. you could get refills for almost anything. sometimes it was almost pushed on you. i had my appendix out a year or so before and they gave me two viking in a day in the hospital and when they cut me loose the third day, they gave me 60 viking and and said take as needed. i had no idea what it was. i didn't know what vicodin was. i don't like taking pills, so i took two and 58 remained in the back of my medicine cabinet. the strict regulation of those pills is a good thing.
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i do, however think we need to understand that people like the gentleman who wrote to you, who are clearly non-abusers, clearly , these drugs are a benefit to their lives. and this is the case all across the country. many people like that. cracking down on them -- it sounds like he's able to get his medication and it's a very good thing. but often times there are people who cannot get their medication because of this abuse, because the pendulum was here and now it's going back to over here now and that is something that needs to change. we need to modify that. we need to take into account the person, and this has always been the story. before the opioid epidemic, very rarely did people get these pain
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meds, even in hospital. you had to have doctors, three different doctors sign off and no one would give refills and no one was taking drugs home. then you have the freeing up entirely of the prescribing practice and everybody has a refill and all you have to do is say i have a pain here and they would give me another refill. it seems to me we treat everybody the same. it's like all or nothing. nothing or all. it feels like we need to think more deeply about this and provide within our medical structure time with doctors, patients suffering from chronic pain and they need time with
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doctors, they need a wide variety of treatment. they can't just be one thing, but when that one thing works pretty well, they can't be told no, you are an abuser, you can become addicted, the history is showing this person is unable to handle it. i don't think we have this happy medium which is where we ought to be and i'm not sure all the reasons why not, but it doesn't seem folks like your collar there -- your caller there were taken into account. certainly people have lost access to these pills, these issues need to be addressed and i'm not sure they are. host: mike is calling in from san bernardino california. caller: thank you. my question is on fennel --
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fentanyl. i know there's a lot of money being made on sales but do you think there is a more sinister motive for introducing it into our country? also how widespread is it? is it worldwide? host: do you think there's a more sinister motive? caller: it did come from china. sam: i would say i haven't done reporting on the question you are asking, but it is absolutely a valid one. i may try to do some reporting on that if i can, maybe after the paperback version of this book comes out in november because i think it's an important issue. i believe from anecdotally, speaking with people on the border, that there are signs in
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the cartel world in mexico that say we make fentanyl for the gringos and anyone selling fentanyl to mexicans will be killed. not sure how widespread that is either. but you have to view it, fentanyl and carfentanil, which is 110,000 times worse, as almost weapons of mass destruction. i frequently view what we are going through right now, it's a drug problem, a drug issue, preying on people who are already drug addicted but it feels as much to me like a poisoning than simply a drug issue when drugs were far more accommodating. even heroin, speaking of heroin like this, but heroin was more forgiving. you could live for 40 years on heroin and you cannot on illicit
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fentanyl. i haven't done any reporting on this. i have inkling's that i can't really talk about right now that some of which is true, it's hard to know because china, they cut back on fentanyl, there are only a few companies allowed to make it now but they haven't cut back on the amount of precursors companies in china are allowed to make, and so that's where a lot of the trafficking world gets their chemicals, from china. it's a good question and i may try to get back at that topic once some of the hubbub dies down regarding my latest book. host: overdose does hit record last year. this is the headline in the wall street journal.
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100,000 people died of overdose deaths last year. more people died of overdoses during -- then during the vietnam war. phil, go ahead. caller: thank you, c-span. thank you, sam. i just want to ask an opinion. we are the only country under the law with the pursuit of happiness. given your exposure to mexico, can a movement occur with the five points -- with illicit drugs as an operational enemy, 30 years, mexico joins usa, become the largest market in the
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economy and pursue cartels. host: what made you think about this? caller: because we are so entwined already and both are corrupt to one extent or the other, that we could join forces and work together to become one and we would be bigger than china or russia. host: that is still in portland oregon. anything you want to address? sam: i'm not sure i have an opinion on that, sometimes when you are reporting, you just have to say i don't know. host: do you see a resolution to the war on drugs, particularly in mexico? if so, how long until it's done?
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sam: it's got a lot of roots and -- i do believe the mexican government needs to step up and do a whole lot more than it has been doing recently and for most of its history has been doing. really it is not much of a partner. it's not to say we don't have our issues, as i have spoken with great -- at great link -- at great length here. but i have to say the country that really needs to address this country most deeply is mexico because it gets to bigger issues of a gross economic inequality, unfairness, it gets to issues of investing in infrastructure, local
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infrastructure, all of that is part of this story. you can clearly see it if you know mexico very well. it also gets to the point where we need to deal with just the most basic stuff. i think traffickers -- it is my feeling, hunch, gut instinct, let's say that the trafficking world is making huge amounts of profits. it painted itself into a very difficult corner. first of all, there is no drug in the united states that is safe to use. no street drug that is safe to use. fennel, meth, marijuana, heroin is mostly fentanyl. so you are finding an entire
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situation where you cannot exaggerate the dangers of the drugs on the street anymore. they are simply deadly. it is russian roulette every single time. that's one thing. they have prospered because they have for so many years all of these places where they could make their drugs, grow their drugs, marijuana, heroin poppies, etc.. now they have funneled all their production, narrow their production capabilities to a few ports if you do something about those ports and chemicals coming in they are clearly designed to make fentanyl. it would not be hard for the mexican government terry deeply dig in what is coming through because there's only a few of them.
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would they go elsewhere? of course they would. who cares. they go somewhere else, they are not going to get the stuff in as easily into the united states making the stuff and going north a few hundred miles. it seems they have painted themselves into a very sticky place that we ought to take advantage of. first of all, in our schools, there is nothing exaggerated as you cannot exaggerate the dangerousness of drugs anymore. they can see it all around them. but i would say some kind of collaboration between the united states and mexico on these issues, although the current government of mexico does not seem interested at all, a collaboration on dealing with chemicals coming through these ports. would it be a 100% solution?
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it would not. we don't need 100%, we need 10%, 15%, 30% solutions. that is the way forward, it seems to me. host: there's a website that you reference, judge for yourselves. info. i'm going to read one sentence from the washington post. how did the opioid epidemic overtake america? the narrative offered a two easy scapegoat. if not perdue, who drove the epidemic? it says oxycontin was only 4% of prescription opioid prescriptions. sam: all of that is true. there's not one villain in this story. it's a complicated tale. it's not about one family only,
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though certainly one family, purdue pharma and the sackler family bear an outsize responsibility for what went on. there's a lot of roots to this story. there's americans wanting easy fixes to what a lot of time is rooted in our unwillingness to get in shape and eat better food and stop smoking and stop drinking and on and on. doctors would tell us we don't need these pills, it's our own personal responsibility, but we in a culture look back on that. there's a lot of corporate economic interest you see in the drug companies. every company that makes these pills was part of the mix. johnson & johnson was, so are numerous companies. i would say this about oxycontin -- it's role is outsized because
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it's a tiny company. their importance to this story was they were part of this massive push of pharmaceutical sales in the mid-90's into the 2000. every company was part of this, hiring huge amounts of salesman and badger doctors until they buy your stuff, but they were the only companies who was solely a narcotic which they promoted entirely as risk-free, almost like an over-the-counter medicine. oxycontin's role in what happened was it took people, because it had no other abuse deterrent in it. it took people up to very high doses, so you would go from 150 milligrams to 300 milligrams daily of the stuff in an attempt
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to control your pain. every time your tolerance would level up, you have to take more. frequently, people would lose their insurance. those folks would then have no choice but to go into treatment, which is very hard to find. or switch to heroin. you saw oxycontin building up the tolerance of our addicted population all across this country to the point where nothing else would do except for heroin. they went to the streets, they tried to buy oxycontin on the streets. so they would switch to heroin. oxycontin created the tolerance levels nationwide other opioids would never have been able to create to that extent. when they do that, they end up
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creating heroin addicts in waiting. so, it's true some small percentage of all the pills prescribed were oxycontin, but because they took people up to those high tolerances, those folks frequently could not afford it. there's a lot of reasons why it happened but eventually they are on the street and have two switch to heroin. i would say it's clear to me the sackler family and purdue pharma innovative, promotional at -- promotional techniques and strategies for selling a narcotic -- they are not selling
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an antihistamine, they are selling an addictive narcotic that is very aggressive and relentless. they were paid the biggest bonuses in the industry, so there's an outsized role for purdue pharma and the sackler family. but there is not one person or thing or family -- i say this in the book as well -- there's not one route to all of this. it's route is an american culture caller: this is a great conversation. you were talking earlier about the guns going into mexico and you talk about collaborating with the mexican government. if you look at some of the things our government has tried
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doing, the first one was -- the one i'm going to speak about was understanding the guns and where the guns were going into the bad areas of mexico. host: we have kind of covered that area and we are running out of time. you are up on the border with canada come are you seeing similarities up there in drug flow? caller: here's the thing -- my father started under operation wet back, 1955. how not so much the goods and services, but the -- host: i apologize.
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we are running a little short on time. one of the things we didn't get to come we always ask our authors what their favorite books are and what they are currently reading. here were sam quinones'responses -- killings by kevin trillin, the corpse had a familiar face, biography of power, never let me go, smiley's people, currently reading frederick douglass, prophet of freedom, five families, the reformation, a history, and the king james bible. i do need to bring up that last one. you write that you are not a christian but so many of the stories you tell have been helped by christians and churches and people following
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the book of matthew, etc. sam: i would say this book is hard to write because i did not have a roadmap, which i had for "dreamland" i had a book proposal for stop -- book proposal. what i began to do is read fairly widely and i had read the gospels before, i'm not a christian but i do find the bible to be an absolutely essential book. i've read the gospel of matthew at a time when i was still personally thinking about these topics of what does this addiction epidemic mean? what does the shredding of community mean? it means we turned our backs on the lease among us. it seems like the bulwark, the
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way forward is focusing in the most local way on trying to make your communities easier to live in and easier for vulnerable people. to me -- we've been talking mostly on the show about fennel and methamphetamine. it's the paramount issue across the country and were not for covid, it would have been the paramount issue of the last five years. the book i ended up putting together was, the heart and soul of that book was the stories of americans in the smallest, least sexy way, working to repair community. that was the focus and the drug story evolved as i was doing that. i felt this was crucial because it showed us we had turned our
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back on this most potent and powerful idea. that's the way we deal best with the communal problems we faced together as a country. telling stories of americans involved in the smallest, little ways, trying to repair that was a radical thing. what they were doing is radical, almost revolutionary thing. it doesn't matter if we look after each other or not -- i think jesus clearly showed he knew the importance of community. he understood we could not live without it. we have tried in this country for the last 40 years and i think the symptoms are friendless miss, loneliness and depression, suicide and most
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important, from my perspective, the addiction epidemic in all parts of the country in the last five years or so. host: sam quinones'books -- unfortunately, we did not get to the first books as much as we should have. his next books, "dreamland" which won the national books critic circle award and his most recent, "the least of us -- true tales of american hope in the time of fentanyl and meth" we certainly appreciate you joining us for the last two hours. sam: it ha hello.
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and welcome to the 2022 nfl draft. trying to think of something


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