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“Chasing the Screams” – Johann Hari’s Book about Addiction

“Chasing the Scream” catapults you into the heart of the War on Drugs, guided by Johann Hari's razor-sharp storytelling.
by Chris Allmer | Oct 17 2023

Just a few books manage to transform our understanding of a complex social issue the way Johann Hari’s “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” does. Taking readers on a century-long journey, Hari meticulously unravels the history, complexities, and human stories underpinning the controversial War on Drugs.

Johann-Hari-on-the-Book-That-Humanized-Drug-Addiction

The War on Drugs

In June 1971, U.S. President Richard Nixon announced the commencement of the War on Drugs. He labeled drug abuse “public enemy number one,” leading to a surge in federal funding for drug-related agencies and initiatives focused on drug treatment.

After this declaration, society’s first reaction during the war on drugs was often to focus on the addiction and forget about the person who is in pain. This uninflected choice has left an indelible mark on countless lives, including that of New York Times bestselling author Johann Hari.

Watching his loved one suffer from addiction, Hari went looking for answers about why we treat addicts the way we do. While plowing through books about addiction, he found out the real story behind the War on Drugs in his monumental work “Chasing the Scrams,” which predicted the future decades before we got to where we are now.

“[It’s] an eerie book because you read it and you see that there was a man who saw everything that was coming down the line. He saw exactly what the drug war would mean. He saw exactly how many people it would kill. He saw that there was an alternative that would save their lives.”
Johann Hari

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

“Chasing the Scream” (2015) explores the intricate world of the War on Drugs, spanning its turbulent first century. Hari presents a profoundly researched narrative, uncovering how the worldwide War on Drugs started, the impact it has had on addicts and societies, and why its strategies have largely failed. One of the pivotal messages of the book is that addiction isn’t merely a chemical dependency; rather, it’s more deeply rooted in emotional pain, trauma, and isolation.

Reading or listening to this summary on Blinkist you will hear the story of jazz icon Billie Holiday’s heroin battle, understand Portugal’s transformative 2001 decision to decriminalize drugs, and learn about Vancouver’s initiative to offer drug users safe and supervised spaces.
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If you’re seeking further understanding of addiction in general and its pervasive impact, here are some other insightful books about addiction that shed light on this complex topic:

Books About Addiction and What You Can Learn From Them

1. “The Distraction Addiction” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

This book isn’t about substance abuse but about a modern struggle many face: our addiction to technology and constant connectivity. Pang doesn’t advocate for completely ditching technology; instead, he offers strategies for using it more mindfully so we don’t feel “enslaved” by it.

2. “The Addiction Inoculation” by Jessica Lahey

Lahey’s book is a must-read about addiction for parents, educators, and anyone who plays a role in a child’s upbringing. Drawing on research, expert input, and personal experience, Lahey provides a roadmap for raising resilient, addiction-aware children. Additionally, this article about the screen addiction of our society in our Blinkist Magazine sheds light on our ever-increasing hours in front of digital displays.

3. “Healing Our Collective Addictions: Russell Brand” by Commune with Jeff Krasno

In this insightful narrative, Russell Brand, a comedian turned spiritualist, shares his journey from addiction to recovery, offering a unique perspective on why people succumb to addictive behaviors. Brand eloquently argues that addiction stems from a lack of connection and that collective healing is not just possible but essential.

Just like “Chasing the Screams”, each of these books about addiction provides a unique lens through which to understand the illness, offering hope, and strategies for those grappling with their own addictive behaviors or those of loved ones. And if you need more information, take a look at our collection of 24 books about addiction.

Blinkist offers a free 7-day trial, allowing you to explore these resources at no cost. Dive in, gain insights, and empower your understanding of addiction today. Take this opportunity to enlighten yourself and better understand this complex issue. Your journey towards informed empathy begins now.

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