Chasing the Scream Book Summary By Johann Hari

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Chasing the Scream (2015) is a riveting book that dives into the last 100 years of the War on Drugs and its disastrously ineffective results.

Author Johann Hari crafts a compelling narrative using an intriguing mix of anecdotes, stats, and passionate debate.

He sheds light on why it's necessary to reconsider how we view addiction, rehabilitation, and drug enforcement.

If you're looking for an eye-opening journey exploring one of today's most controversial and widely debated topics, look no further than Chasing the Scream.

You'll be surprised by what you find within its pages, as well as inspired by Hari's message around this complex subject.

Chasing the Scream Book

Book Name: Chasing the Scream (The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs)

Author(s): Johann Hari

Rating: 4.6/5

Reading Time: 17 Minutes

Categories: Society & Culture

Author Bio

Johann Hari is a renowned author and journalist who has gained acclaim from publications such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian and The New Republic.

His book Chasing the Scream unpacks how society's knee-jerk reaction to a century of drug policy created a devastating cycle of crime and death.

He is also the author of God Save the Queen?, which is a hilariously critical exploration into British monarchy.

As an acclaimed writer, Johann Hari has made it his mission to shine light on major topics that have been wrangled in misguided controversy for years.

He takes an important yet approachable approach to educate readers about the realities behind pressing issues.

The War On Drugs: Exploring The Controversial Conflict Over Drugs And Their Regulation

War On Drugs

In Chasing the Scream, you’ll learn all about the history of the War on Drugs and find out why it has been so unsuccessful.

You’ll discover how this war started in order to beat an “undeniably” evil enemy – drugs – only to realize that it was fought against the wrong enemy.

The book dives into how over time, more and more countries have favored legalization and decriminalization of drugs, and how current efforts to take down dealers often result in more power for gangs instead.

And you’ll gain insight into the much deeper reason as to why addiction has nothing to do with drug use itself.

Pick up Chasing the Scream for a better understanding of why we’ve never found victory in this long-fought War on Drugs.

How Harry Anslinger Pulled Off An Unlikely Victory: The Birth Of The War On Drugs

The War on Drugs was born in America and pushed onto other countries.

It began as a reaction to the rapid industrialization, alongside WWI, of American society during the early twentieth century.

Looking for an outlet to express their anxiety and aggression, Americans sought tangible targets they could blame – like drugs – for the less tangible problems created by their changing world.

This idea of using prohibition to control drug use gained traction in the United States and eventually spread globally at the urging of Harry Anslinger, the first chief of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962.

He persuaded other members of the United Nations, leveraging America’s geopolitical dominance, to adopt stringent policies against drug use.

Anslinger believed that communists were deliberately trying to smuggle drugs into the U.S., believing it would weaken America’s strength by creating addiction among its citizens.

His attempts to curb illegal drug trade resulted in a worldwide war on drugs that still persists today.

The Ugly Truth Behind The War On Drugs: Using Racial Prejudice To Eradicate Drug Use

The War on Drugs has long been shrouded in misconceptions, with the belief that it was meant to protect those from addiction and eliminate use amongst the general population.

But what many don’t know is that its primary purpose wasn’t prevention of drug use, but rather suppression of racial minorities.

This became clear when it was first launched in 1914 by Harry Anslinger, who blamed the rise of drug consumption on black people during various interviews.

His statements were backed up by discriminatory policing practices when enforcing anti-drug laws – while Billie Holiday, a black woman, was criminalised for her heroin addiction, Judy Garland, a white woman, was shown lenience.

The war on drugs propagated a narrative of blame towards African-Americans, which provided an easy scapegoat for deep-rooted issues caused by structural racism and poverty in America at the time.

It allowed whites to remain comfortable about their status quo without facing any uncomfortable truths about the realities of race in society.

The War On Drugs Has Created A Self-Perpetuating Cycle Of Crime And Addiction

Crime And Addiction

Contrary to Harry Anslinger and his colleagues’ expectations, when a popular product is criminalized, it often doesn’t just disappear.

Instead, people will go out of their way to find illegitimate ways to get what they want – which is especially true of drugs in light of their intense physical and psychological cravings.

Criminalization was found to have a very real impact on the ground: the creation of criminal networks for the supply and distribution of illegal drugs came as a direct result of their illegality.

People were willing or forced to pay steep prices for even small amounts: morphine that cost two or three cents per grain before criminalization had risen up to one dollar!

Addicts, finding no possibility for negotiation from gangsters, would pay whatever amount necessary as desperate measures for getting their fix.

Inevitably, petty crimes such as theft became commonplace practices amongst addicts with limited funds.

In this way, the War on Drugs unwittingly created the modern drug-related crime industry that it sought to defeat in the 20th century – by inhibiting access to controlled substances through exorbitant pricing, addiction quickly became an unbearable burden that left many feeling helpless and resorting to illicit activities.

The War On Drugs Has Led To A Cycle Of Sadism And Increased Violent Crime

Cracking down on drug dealing doesn’t have the effect of reducing crime that you would expect.

In fact, research has found that cracking down on drug dealers actually results in an increase in violence, rather than a decrease.

Michael Levine identified 100 drug dealers working a notorious block in Manhattan and arrested 80 percent of them, only for new dealers to quickly move in and drug activity to rise back up to normal levels.

When authorities crack down on higher-ups in criminal organizations, they also create gaps in power structure which rival gangs will fight each other to fill – leading to increased violence.

What’s more, because gangs can’t turn to law enforcement if their product is stolen, they cultivate a reputation for brutality as a form of prevention – causing a never ending cycle of escalating violence.

Ultimately, these are the devastating consequences of crack downs on drug dealing – increased violence, not decreased crime rates.

The War On Drugs Is Failing Because We Have The Wrong Understanding Of Addiction

People often erroneously believe that usage of a certain drug will inevitably lead to addiction, but a close look into the matter suggests otherwise.

As indicated by a study from the Canadian Journal of Medicine, people with significant exposure to opiates were no more likely to become addicted than anyone else.

This leads us to conclude that an individual’s susceptibility and vulnerability factor heavily into their level of addiction potential.

Indeed, two-thirds of injection drug users experienced childhood trauma, such as physical or verbal abuse, or the death of a parent – these past experiences dramatically increase the chances of an individual relying on drugs for relief and comfort due to lack of human connections.

It’s also seen that prolonged periods of social breakdown and displacement significantly influence rates in addiction; when jobs are scarce, communities start falling apart – in these cases, drugs can offer individuals a sense of connection they had lost.

Therefore it is clear that without individual susceptibility acting as an enabling factor, drugs cannot cause addiction on their own.

Decriminalizing Drug Possession Is A Step In The Right Direction In Fighting Addiction

Fighting Addiction

By decriminalizing the possession of drugs, governments can help addicts get the support they need to combat their addiction.

This is a much more sustainable way to address drug use than trying to arrest and punish people into submission.

The Swiss government provides an excellent example of how this works.

Instead of arresting and jailbreaking addicts, authorities have set up injection centers where they can come to get their daily fix in a sanitary, supervised environment.

This allows them to keep their jobs and support their families, while also getting the help they need.

In Portugal’s case, not only did decriminalization lead to a decline in drug use among the population – with fewer injections per thousand people – but it also allowed police officers and drug authorities to take on the role of consultant instead of the hard-handed approach of punishment.

Legalizing Drugs Is The Best Solution For Reducing Youth Access And Ending Gang Activity

When it comes to the idea of legalizing drugs, one of the often overlooked benefits is the resulting increase of tax revenue and weakening of criminal organizations.

By regulating drugs like tobacco and alcohol, governments can better control their access and limit usage.

For example, dealers often sell drugs on street corners or in schools – places you’d never find alcohol being sold legally.

If a government were to legalize drugs there would be another strong barrier put into place between them and potential minors purchasers.

On top of that, legalization would save a lot of money previously gone to arresting drug users/dealers as well as encourage a new tax revenue sources by taxing these newly legal products accordingly.

The US alone could save an estimated $41 billion and an additional $46.7 billion in taxes each year should they decide to go this route.

That’s $87.7 billion extra per year that can be put towards recovery services or other causes – all while significantly weakening illegal drug-related gangs worldwide as they scramble to move their business elsewhere where there are no longer profits from selling illegal substances anymore.

With this knowledge we can start seeing what legalizing drugs really means: giving addicts more options for buying safe, tested drugs rather than having to buy subpar product from untrustworthy people; creating a more economically stable society through increased tax benefits; minimum assistance offered to those struggling with addiction; and reduction in any related violence from criminal organisations fuelled by drug-trade money.

Wrap Up

At the end of Chasing The Scream, it is clear that taking a new approach is needed to address the global drug epidemic.

The War on Drugs has done more harm than good and we need to develop policies that focus on not just catching drug users and dealers, but also providing treatment and support for those who are suffering from addiction.

Rather than relying on harsh punishments, we must embrace a more humane approach that looks at addiction from a medical perspective and understands how mental health issues can be factors in someone’s drug use.

Only through empathy, not punishment, can we hope to move past this current crisis.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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