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Summary

It is now 100 years since drugs were first banned in the United States. On the eve of this centenary, journalist Johann Hari set off on an epic three-year, 30,000-mile journey into the war on drugs. What he found is that more and more people all over the world have begun to recognize three startling truths: Drugs are not what we think they are. Addiction is not what we think it is. And the drug war has very different motives to the ones we have seen on our TV screens for so long.

In Chasing the Scream, Hari reveals his discoveries entirely through the stories of people across the world whose lives have been transformed by this war. They range from a transsexual crack dealer in Brooklyn searching for her mother, to a teenage hit-man in Mexico searching for a way out. It begins with Hari's discovery that at the birth of the drug war, Billie Holiday was stalked and killed by the man who launched this crusade - and it ends with the story of a brave doctor who has led his country to decriminalize every drug, from cannabis to crack, with remarkable results.

Chasing the Scream lays bare what we really have been chasing in our century of drug war - in our hunger for drugs, and in our attempt to destroy them. This audiobook will challenge and change how you think about one of the most controversial - and consequential - questions of our time.

©2015 Johann Hari (P)2014 Audible Inc.

Critic reviews

"Wonderful. I couldn't put it down" (Noam Chomsky)
"An absolutely stunning book. It will blow your mind, and blow you away" (Elton John)
"Superb journalism and thrilling story-telling" (Naomi Klein)
"Intoxicatingly thrilling ... It will change the drug debate forever" (Russell Brand) "This book is, forgive the obvious phrase, screamingly addictive. The story it tells, jaw-droppingly horrific, hilarious and incredible, is one everyone should know: that is all true boggles the mind fascinated and infuriates by equal measure. Johann Hari, in brilliant prose, exposes one of the greatest and most harmful scandals of the past hundred years" (Stephen Fry)
"Johann Hari's book is the perfect antidote to the war on drugs, one of the most under-discussed moral injustices of our time. It combines rigorous research and deeply human story-telling. It will prompt an urgently-needed debate" (Glenn Greenwald)
"Johann Hari has written a drug policy reform book like no other. Many have studied, or conducted, the science surrounding the manifold ills of drug prohibition. But Hari puts it all into riveting story form, and humanises it ... It's a fascinating tale" (Norm Stamper, former chief of the Seattle Police Department)
"In this energetic and thought-proving book Johann Hari harnesses the power of personal narrative to reveal the true causes and consequences of the War on Drugs" (Professor David Nutt DM FRCP FRCPsych FMedSci, former chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to the UK government)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Captivating and thought provoking

I am a fairly liberal person, not a drug user per-se but I have had my experiences and run-ins with drugs and the system in which they are demonised and scape-goated. This book forced me to review the way I viewed drugs, drug use and drug addicts and drove home some difficult to digest truths. Incredinly interesting, moving, disturbing, liberating, everyone should read this book no matter how they feel about drugs, and I think we as a society will get there in the end - to the place this book so convincingly argues us to go.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Renata
  • EDINBURGH, United Kingdom
  • 27-04-16

Important, essential, informative.

If you could sum up Chasing the Scream in three words, what would they be?

Important, essential, informative.

What did you like best about this story?

Johann Hari gives us an in depth look at how badly we have handled the situation with illegal drugs and the damage it has done to too many people. This book isn't about encouraging recreational or across the counter drug taking - He doesn't advocate drug taking at all but tries to give us a balanced look at what the War on Drugs really is and where it went wrong right from the outset.

Which character – as performed by Tim Gerard Reynolds – was your favourite?

The reading was well balanced and I thought I was listening to the author most of the time which I deduced as a good thing?

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I tried to remain unemotional about this subject but did find some of the stories sent me into a frustrated tizzy of hair-pulling for all sorts of reasons too long to detail as the stories were many.

Any additional comments?

Whether you adamantly believe in the War on Drugs or believe in legalisation this book really will help you make an informed opinion on the subject. It is a very rational debate on the subject and the book should be an essential read for all those of reading and drug-taking age.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Inspirational

One of the most inspirational, unbelievable yet shockingly real books I have ever encountered. This book will shake you to the core and either reinforce your beliefs about drugs - or change them. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Epic

Amazing!!!! You must download. If you feel anything about drugs this book will blow your mind.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Everyone should read or listen to this book.

Chasing the Scream breaks down our societal assumptions about the dangers of drugs with a fascinating investigation which spans history, the animal kingdom, criminality, and individual stories of those worse affected by the war on drugs. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Sense and sensibility.

A shining light of hope for much and many. Researched and written superbly. The performance of the narrator is brilliant, names are made characters and characters protagonists and heroes, villains and normal people - all are written, represented and respected.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The story you were never told

This is an in-depth and highly thought-provoking examination of the so-called 'war on drugs' of the past century. You will not think about drugs in the same way after this.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The things I never knew!!!

Honestly, I thought I knew quite a lot about drugs on account of having experimented with a few; I also thought I knew about addiction through personal experience (with tobacco and also cannabis) and through the cases of two friends addicted to heroin. Yeah, right! There is so much more to it all. From the crazy determination of one man to rid the world of something he thought evil, to the fallacies about addiction, to the lies about what would happen to society if we went back to the time when drugs weren't illegal, to the human cost of a war that will never be won. Please read this book and recommend it to your friends.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the most important books of our times, about our times!

This is a wonderfully researched, written and presented exploration and expose of the beginning, middle and (hopefully) end of the war on drugs; it's misguided seed, destructive fruits and maybe a solution to all of the suffering it has caused...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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This book changed the way I think of drugs

Would you consider the audio edition of Chasing the Scream to be better than the print version?

Yes, Tim Reynolds really makes Hari's story come alive.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Chasing the Scream?

There were many! I wouldn't want to spoil the book either, as I found that finding out facts along with following Hari's journey added to the enjoyment of listening to it. When Hari visits Switzerland, and Portugal, the difference that their drug policy has made not only to individuals but to the nation as a whole was very striking. Also, finding myself thinking differently about a subject I thought I knew so much about was so mind opening. This book literally changed the way I think of drugs and drug policy, which I think in itself has to be a very memorable moment!

Which character – as performed by Tim Gerard Reynolds – was your favourite?

Hari encounters many different characters on his journey, and each one is very striking in their own way. Hari does an excellent job of exploring the human side of this war on drugs. He doesn't concentrate too heavily on facts and figures, it is the people affected who are his main focus. I think Billie Holiday really stood out to me, but it would be unfair to pick just one, as each person's story is recounted so brilliantly, and each one thought provoking in their own way.

Any additional comments?

I really recommend this book. It has changed the way I think about drugs and drug policy in ways I never thought were possible. This is an excellent book, and I also hope that governments pay attention to it.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Drake
  • 24-04-16

This is worth your time....

Any additional comments?

I am a physician who has practiced a specialty of internal medicine for over 30 years.if you want advice: you should absolutely hear this book.The author makes a compelling case that most, if not all, drugs should be legalized and regulated.I believe that marijuana, opiates, cocaine and methamphetamine cause more harm than good when used recreationally.(Methamphetamine is especially harmful and is a common cause of heart failure and death in long-term users.)Nevertheless, the author has persuaded me that the harm caused by Prohibition and the War on Drugs is not worth the social benefit.Increasing numbers of young people are dying of narcotic overdoses. (Read the excellent Dreamland by Sam Quinones.) With enlightened policies that have worked for example in Switzerland – this can be stopped.Drug-related crime of all kinds – from the many thousands of horrific murders caused by the Cartels to petty theft to help support a habit – could be markedly reduced by legalization. The police could concentrate on criminals doing real social harm. The prisons would not be overflowing with those being brutalized for largely victimless crimes. The money spent arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning drug users could be spent with much greater social benefit. You will learn that many of our drug policies have been founded on ignorance and prosecuted with ulterior motives.There are aspects of this book that I disagree with. The author is not a physician and he has chosen his medical experts selectively. I believe he underestimates the power of "chemical hooks” to disrupt the human reward system and subvert the will.On the whole, he gives much credence to a lack of social connection and past psychotrama as the cause of drug abuse and addiction. I think he probably overemphasizes this influence. There are significant genetic factors that predispose to substance abuse and addiction – this is clearly true with alcohol for example. When susceptible humans meet easily available drugs there is likely to be trouble —and we must accept and be ready to cope with that fact. He freely admits that ending prohibition will probably increase the use of drugs of all sorts. But the drugs will probably be less potent and less dangerous. And the conditions of their use can be better regulated.Mental Health Services (which have not achieved the same scientific foundations or effectiveness as the rest of medicine) and other social services would be significantly challenged by legalization. They could at least be better funded and possibly evolve their effectiveness with the windfall of money not wasted on prohibition.All this said, he has convinced this skeptic that legalization and regulation is the better path. I suspect he will also convince you.

187 of 196 people found this review helpful

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  • Gordon Jones
  • 26-01-15

Absolutely magnificent

A more inspiring and insightful book I cannot imagine. Brilliantly presented and truly earth shattering. I do so hope the influences of this well researched work reach far and touch the key people who are in positions to make changes in our society.

36 of 39 people found this review helpful

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  • P. Smith
  • 04-02-15

A Must if the drug war has touched you at all

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This should be required reading for anyone directly involved in the drug war. It is told in an extremely compelling fashion, and in great detail. Despite this it never lags.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Chasing the Scream?

The history of how the US government destroyed medical treatment, for drug addicts WORLDWIDE.

Which character – as performed by Tim Gerard Reynolds – was your favorite?

Chino, the drug addict illegitimate child of an addict and her rapist father police officer.

If you could give Chasing the Scream a new subtitle, what would it be?

Truth is the first casualty in all wars.

Any additional comments?

If enough people read this book, and act on it, we can bring the problem of addiction under control, and restore a more peaceful society.

46 of 51 people found this review helpful

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  • Keith Stout
  • 17-02-15

Great factual story

I am very impressed with the authors research on this matter. It has opened my eyes and my heart to a new way of thinking about the so called "War on Drugs". Having grown up in the 60's,70's & the 80's I see how a different approach to this would have had much better results. I have lost friends to drugs and would love nothing more than to see it controlled in this manner. I suggest this read to anyone who has been or is effected by drugs for that matter anyone period!

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Oneeye
  • 14-06-16

much too lengthy

A very good story, but the last few hours are so repetitious that finishing the book was a real chore. Could easily be cut in half and still present a very compelling story.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jessica
  • 30-04-15

Blew my mind

after ensuring the bibliography wasn't filled with junk reports and checking facts with the drug guys and medical gals around campus for verification on dubious and surprising points, I can proudly proclaim that the big facts and figures are correct. I believe his worst infraction was screwing up someone's title or something insubstabtial like that.

So, I'm inspired and fired up. Can someone tell me where the revolution is scheduled to be and if they have coffee there? I'll carpool if needed.

26 of 31 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Calliope
  • 03-04-16

All you need is love..........

This is a flaming piece of propaganda that is almost enough to turn me away from my beliefs towards decriminalizing drugs......when I see (or hear) someone twist words around, ignore facts, and jumble examples this badly, I presume he doesn't have a strong and rational enough argument to be able to sell it without these propagandist tools.

The premise here -- at least one of them, it's hard to keep them straight -- is that all one needs is love, a purpose in life, and virtual utopia to avoid and/or recover from a drug addiction. It's a fairyland premise that makes me want to scream. This idea sounds all rosy and peachy keen, except when it's applied to reality where, even without drugs, there still are boring McJobs, social isolation, physical infirmities, abusive parents, chronic unemployment, and government Catch 22s. It's certainly a premise that will not stand the test of reality.

And the author chooses some very prejudicial language to make his point -- drug addicts are not "jailed", they're "caged", for instance. Then there's the author's claim that if drugs were legalized, the drug cartels would fade away like the gangsters had when Prohibition was repealed......ignoring the fact that they (organized criminals) didn't fade away, they just switched to other forms of crime to continue making their piles of money and piling up power.

If only we could give drug addicts a big hug and invite them to share our Sunday dinner, they would have the tools they need to break their addiction (eye roll here) - where the author assumes every addict wants to be free of his/her addiction on one hand, but on the other hand says that some addicts prefer their addictive life to the boring McJob they might have otherwise. Oh, and the author ignores the fact that boring jobs (janitor was one mentioned here) will always exist, so if McJobs are part of the problem, that isn't going to change with decriminalization or legalization.

The author barely mentions the biological component of addiction, which is constantly brushed away as "such a minor part", though genetics is never something to ignore and sweep under a rug. But, the author also has a hard time realistically judging voting statistics, when he claims a vote that split 55% for and 45% against was a landslide that won by "over 10%!!!". While the numbers are right, the truth is that it's a slight victory, hardly a landslide, and it means that almost half the voters will have to be won emotionally since they lost at the polls, and will be a force to be reckoned with. A strange interpretation of facts.

There is some good stuff here -- the history of the start of the "drug wars," the financial motives behind it, and the bullying of the US against other countries was interesting. And I do support a lot of what he wants, though I hate what and how he presents his support. Still, I had a hard time finishing this book and getting through the "all you need is love" speeches and his blatant ignoring of the parts of reality and history that don't match his ideas.

43 of 52 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Joan
  • 17-02-15

Beautifully written

The book is powerful. Extremely well researched. Changed everything I thought I knew about drugs and addicts. The author engages the reader from the first sentence to the last

21 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • tony mancill
  • 24-09-17

good source material but maddening narration

This book stands apart from others I have read on the subject - e.g. recently "Narconomics" - in that the author takes a very personal and humane approach to the interviewees and subject matter. This seems appropriate and makes the material more interesting than a strictly rational treatment of the subject.

However, the narration detracts greatly from the material in the book because the narrator insists upon reading passages in what he assumes would be the voice of the speaker. These voices range from grating caricatures to down-right insulting stereotypes. The narrator has a background in theater and maybe this is supposed to draw the listener in, but for me it destroys the pathos evoked by the stories in the book.

I recommend the book itself, but consider reading it instead of listening to it.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Teresa Stuart
  • 02-02-15

Challenges many of my perceptions

As a recovered alcoholic and a clinical addiction counselor I'm having to look again at my own recovery and at the way I counsel others seeking recovery.

28 of 36 people found this review helpful