Dreamland Part 2: How fentanyl and super meth crashed over the United States.
Where did all the psychotic homeless people come from? Who brought the killer fentanyl to America? It is a story straight out of the television series “Breaking Bad.”
Prize winning writer Sam Quinones explains it this way: a man serving time in a California prison for cooking synthetic drugs perfects his culinary skills while behind bars.
When released, the Sinola Cartel brings him to Mexico City to cook meth. But the chef does not cook them meth. He fixes up a batch of fentanyl. The cartel is displeased until it learns the profits to be made.
That first batch is sent to Chicago and Detroit in 2009 and now it is everywhere. And so is death.
And so are the drug addled zombies in Americas streets and public parks.
None of this can be accomplished without the help of a corrupt Mexican government that turns a blind eye. How else could the precursor chemicals making their way through the Mexico’s ports?
Speaker 1 (00:00:01):
Hey, Jesus Hippy. Look at my billboard, bro. Pretty nice. No bullshit. News hour.com. I made it available. A fucking YouTube with the YouTube sticker up there. Facebook Zuckerberg’s, motherfucker Shadowman and me. I’m a shadowman him. Get up there, Jesus. And paint over that shit. Hey man, you missed the spot.
Speaker 2 (00:00:36):
Speaker 1 (00:00:37):
To the left. No little the right. Get it all done. Motherfuckers didn’t pay a cent shadow by me. No, no, no, no. Don’t fuck with Reddit. I like Reddit.
Speaker 2 (00:00:54):
Speaker 3 (00:00:55):
Downtown Detroit. It’s no PS News out with my main man
Speaker 4 (00:01:24):
Breaking this Dobo bullshit. Dobo bullshit.
Speaker 5 (00:01:29):
Yeah. Well, happy Monday. You remember last week we had Sam Quinones on America’s greatest non-fiction writer going today. It was so interesting. We thought we’d have back Monday. <laugh> today. Well, it’s not really Monday, it’s, it’s last Thursday. But Sam changed his shirt. Karen put on a scarf and I turned my vest inside out.
Speaker 1 (00:01:51):
Charlie, my jacket.
Speaker 6 (00:01:52):
What is the point of doing that if you’re going to tell everybody that’s
Speaker 1 (00:01:55):
What we did. I have no idea it was Sam’s idea
Speaker 5 (00:01:59):
Speaker 1 (00:01:59):
Speaker 5 (00:02:00):
Speaker 6 (00:02:02):
It’s Monday. It’s Monday. It’s Monday. It’s Monday,
Speaker 2 (00:02:06):
Speaker 5 (00:02:08):
Speaker 2 (00:02:09):
Speaker 5 (00:02:12):
What? Everybody talking to Everyone better <laugh>. Pat him down. All right, listen, what we were talking about Thursday last week was how Olds and Oxycontin and heroin became the scourge, the United States. We left off at about 2006 and then big things happened in 2006, namely Fentanyl. And we’ll get to that with Sam Quinones, his latest book, the Least of Us Bar two by Hall Financial. Want to remind you that credit card rates, if you’re carrying over the interest is what? 20%? Oh yeah. And that half of you in America are doing that Hall financial’s here to help you become debt free. Get a cash out refinance from Hall Financial. That’s a great way to use the equity in your home to pay off the high interest credit card debt. Think about that. 6% or 20% <laugh>. It’s simple math. It’s
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Easy math. Yeah. Yeah. It’s easy math. I can handle that.
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Speaker 6 (00:04:03):
They call me Charlie. I didn’t even have to call them. They call me. I’m talking. I sent Alex over my deck pages today.
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Speaker 7 (00:04:57):
Speaker 5 (00:04:57):
He does it home. No, I got my way. I got the my plan. He asked me my plan. What are you looking to do? I got a kid. I wanted to go to college. I’m not going to live to be 80. I want my wife to have something. That’s what I do. How do you get through the year? What’s inflation going do? What interest rate going to do what Are you going to do? Stocks, bonds? Do you move your 401k, your college savings plan? Do you want to just get started? You want to make the right investment? Are you on a pension board? He does pension boards.
Speaker 7 (00:05:34):
Speaker 5 (00:05:34):
He hate some small fry. This guy. Yeah. You know what I mean? Good dude. He supports the show. We support him. Let him help you get advice, get a SCR strategy. Call Luke Noia, pinnacle Wealth (248) 663-4748. Securities and investment advisory services offer to Ssociate service. Beautiful, sour
Speaker 6 (00:05:58):
Charlie. Probably going to live to be about 110.
Speaker 5 (00:06:01):
Speaker 6 (00:06:02):
Don’t say you’re not going to make it till 80. You’re probably going to live till about 110.
Speaker 5 (00:06:06):
Well, I got news for you. I don’t even think the prophets in the Old Testament lived to No, it didn’t live to be No. 888.
Speaker 7 (00:06:13):
Speaker 5 (00:06:15):
Dudek didn’t live to be No. 924 years
Speaker 6 (00:06:17):
Old. Well, you’re going to set a new standard, Charlie, let’s think. Positive.
Speaker 5 (00:06:22):
They’re just counting like the federal government, Karen <laugh>. You live and then you don’t <laugh> while you here live. That’s what I say. You hope they report it right in the Well, you’ll
Speaker 7 (00:06:31):
Be able to vote till you’re 800 though, or somebody
Speaker 5 (00:06:33):
Will. Well, I’ll tell you how you vote when you, until you’re 800, you’re registered to vote in Michigan. Exactly. Then you’ll be registered to vote for 800 years. But be warned, you’ll die waiting for ’em to count your vote. I’m telling you. <laugh>. Now here’s another health tip.
Speaker 7 (00:06:49):
Speaker 5 (00:06:50):
Don’t buy the dope. Don’t buy the dope on the street. I wouldn’t even buy weed on the street. Cocaine. Nope. Heroin definitely not. It’s all got fentanyl now. Yeah, we basically got the world’s expert here. I mean a expert. An expert, and the one who can really communicate it best to we a regular people. This is a big issue joining us, author Sam Quinones. Sam, we left off at about 2006. We left off at 2006 because that’s about when fentanyl really hits the scene. Is this correct sir?
Speaker 8 (00:07:24):
Well, it’s when the Mexican drug world discovers fentanyl and when last we spoke, you know, have last week kills going nationwide, creating a lot of addiction, a lot of people switching then to heroin because they were fully strung out on this stuff. And a lot of ’em that are really in bad shape and the generalized Mexican trafficking world gets involved in selling heroin by the early two thousands, by oh five. They’re really fully involved in it. One, however, and that continued on for the next 10 years. That’s a story that continues on well into the next decade. And however, in one part of Mexico, a small element within the Sinoa drug cartel El wants
Speaker 6 (00:08:20):
Speaker 8 (00:08:22):
Right. That’s where the drug cartel that Chap Guzman led was one of the leaders up. They want to get, they want get a new supply, a new source of a chemical known as ephedrine, which is the way for many years the Mexicans had learned to make methamphetamine using ephedrine, the decongestion, which you find in Sudafed pills and all the rest. So they hire a, in 2005 and into 2006, as you say, they hire an underground chemist, a guy who, a Mexican guy who grown up in San Diego, learned somehow to make fentanyl in San Diego. Went to prison for a number of years in federal US prison where he learned to make fentanyl better. He then gets deported, comes back and they contact him and say, how about if you were to make ephedrine for us, we would set you up in a very well appointed lab with all the top glassware and all this kind of stuff.
And what we want you to make though is ephedrine. And he says, sure. Meanwhile, in the back of his mind though, he’s thinking, these guys don’t know that I have access to one of the most profitable drugs, the most profitable drugs they’ll ever deal with. And so instead of making fentanyl ephedrine, I’m sorry, after they get the labs set up, he instead never actually makes ephedrine, he makes fentanyl. Well, these guys, after funding all this get fairly mad because like, Hey, we want you to make aed. He sits ’em down and he says, no, what I’m making for you, you don’t understand. This is what he says. What he calls it is, he doesn’t call it fentanyl, he calls it synthetic heroin. Heroin you can make from chemicals. You don’t name to grow poppies anymore. No sunlight, no irrigation, no farmers, no helicopters overhead spraying your plans, none of that.
We’re making this. And they go, okay, we’re listening. And he says, what’s more? This is the most potent and therefore profitable drug you will ever deal with. I have done experiments on mice. He tells them, and I can cut a kilo 50 times and it’ll still be user saleable on the streets. Now that is something they don’t believe because they’re veteran drug dealers. Nobody on the street has ever cut a drug 50 times and haven’t been anything but pure bunk. But he says, no, this is true. And in fact, they do some tests, they sell it, they, he begins to make it. They sell it first in Chicago, then they work on up to Detroit. And little by little they begin to see that this is in fact exactly as he says, extraordinarily potent, extraordinarily profitable. And this is the first time, by the way, we see a mass die off too to fentanyl where you begin to see all of a sudden hundreds of people dying, hundreds a month.
And over time, over the next nine months before the lab was eventually busted, you see several, many thousands of people dying all of a sudden, like in Chicago, in St. Louis, in Detroit, then eventually Cleveland, then eventually Philly and Camden. And over the next nine months he makes fentanyl and they’re like astounded. The lights go on in the Sonoa drug cartel, particularly this one group. But eventually everybody in the group knows because Sonoa drug cartel, not really an organization, it’s more confederation of traffickers. But everybody kind of figures this out. But the problem is for them that this guy ends up getting busted. That lab is busted in April, 2006 by the Mexican authorities. And the guy who runs it, Ricardo Baldez Torres, is also known as the brain is put in prison. And he, he’s out of commission. So they actually lose access to the guy who know they know who knows best how to make this stuff.
Several years past, they don’t forget Fentanyl Bell. They say, wow, synthetic heroin. Heroin. You don’t have to grow poppies to make wonderful, fabulous. Meanwhile, the Chinese chemical companies are figuring out that they can sell this stuff. They have known how to make fentanyl for a lot of years, legitimately fentanyl legitimate. And their companies begin to sell it illegitimately illegally to traffickers using the web, using the dark web and sometimes the open web that we all use. And eventually you begin to see the first, after that one die off, which ends with the bust of that lab. So you get thousands of people dying and then they stop dying. And then several years later you begin to see the trafficking. The chemical companies in China understand that there’s a market, particularly in those states where the opioid epidemic has hit first and worst. Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, of course, all these places, all of a sudden dealers in there, the word sprint, particularly first it seems in northern Ohio, Akron, Cleveland places like that, where they discover, Hey, fentanyl is a additive to Harry.
You had added boost your heroin and it’ll dirt cheap. The little few little grains will do it. And they begin to buy this stuff from the Chinese who begin to the companies there, Chinese chemical companies mail it through the mail pound at a time, something like that. These guys don’t know what they’re doing. These dealers on the street level, what they see is lottery winnings. Fentanyl means lottery profits. The problem is, and unlike any other drug before, in order to get those lottery profits, they have to mix fentanyl with something else because it’s so potent that a few grams, a few grains, I’m sorry, will get you high. A couple more will kill you. But either way, you cannot sell a few little grains like worth of salt. Just think of a few grains of salt on the street. It’s just not logistically possible to sell that in old baggy.
So they have to mix it with something else, with some other lactose, some other powder that doesn’t do anything to be able to sell this stuff. The prom is, they are awful mixers. They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t know how to make. And so for a long time they were mixing up this stuff that was killing huge and overdosing people in enormous clusters. You’d see in a weekend, 50, 75 people overdosing in Cincinnati and we in Huntington, West Virginia. And one reason for that was that the myth had spread on the street that the best way to mix your fentanyl with another inert powder was with a magic bullet blender. Now I have a magic bullet blender. They’re Mag ma magnificent instruments. I make smoothies and salsa with my magic bullet blender. And it’s great, it’s, it’s a wonderful kitchen implant. It’s a awful thing to use to mix your fentanyl because it’s powder and the magic bullet blender, fentanyls powder and fe magic bullet blender only blend blends liquid.
These guys don’t know that. They don’t care. They’re mixing the stuff. Narcs are finding 5, 6, 8 dozen magic bullet blenders at these mixing sites. It’s an amazing just shit storm of stuff. And all this stuff’s going out and killing people in large concentrated numbers. But the Mexican trafficking world never has forgotten fentanyl. So they begin to buy fentanyl from the Chinese. But then eventually I think what happens is they find chemists who teach them how to make it. And that is when the world shifts. That is a traumatic change because now they have access. They see that synthetic drugs of the way to the future. You don’t need land, you don’t need irrigation, sunlight, any of that that they used to do to grow their own dope. Now all you need is a shipping port control, the shipping port, which they do. You can get ingredients from the world, chemical from all the ingredients you want. And that’s what begins to happen really about 2016, 17. Gradually the Chinese chemical companies are eclipsed. They begin to sell the ingredients to the Mexicans and the Mexicans in Mexico begin to make it with these ingredients that are coming in through the ports. They’re the airport, Mexico City, big source. All of that allows them to make just simply like staggering quantities. Why
Speaker 5 (00:16:50):
Don’t the Mexican authorities stop this airport? They’re ports of,
Speaker 8 (00:16:56):
Yeah, I mean there’s problems with a long standing problems with corruption in Mexico. There’s also, I would say these drug traffickers are by now warring amongst each other. And they are very savage. And a lot of that is brought on by the fact that they are getting guns from the United States that are spot here very easily assault weapons and smuggled south, and they become weapons of choice. So that’s part of what guarantees their impunity is the heavily armed nature of their work. All of that is very, very difficult to deal with the Mexican government. And now you have a president who really doesn’t want to collaborate with the United States at all. And so you’ve got that problem too. But it’s a tough nut to crack when you’ve got this kind of money, these kinds of weapons and this kind of history of corruption. Well, whatever the case, you begin to see this impunity result in simply staggering quantities of fentanyl.
And what happens about 2015, 16, well 17 and 18, is you begin to see the fentanyl now that it’s made in Mexico and in huge amounts and growing amount, in large amount amounts every year it begins to spread. It goes from that central states that I mentioned to both coasts eventually over the next couple years and arrives. I’m from California, first large overdose cluster of overdoses of fentanyl was in 2018. And Chico, California, you’re seeing other states have other ti. But by 2018, 19 fentanyl is pretty much all over the country, which is a remarkable thing. We’ve never had one drug from one source cover the entire country unless you’re counting doctors and opioid painkillers. Say that again. We never had one drug cover the entire country. And eventually we’ll have two. We’ll get to that story.
Speaker 5 (00:18:47):
What do you mean? Well, we cocaine covid,
Speaker 8 (00:18:52):
Meaning, did you find this drug everywhere? Now we’ve had marijuana marijuana’s everywhere, but marijuana’s grown by many, many different people all over America, all over Mexico. You’ve really never seen one drug. So what
Speaker 6 (00:19:09):
About the crack epidemic, Sam, you said never one drug with a proliferation around the country but what about the crack era? I mean that had
Speaker 8 (00:19:20):
Isolated, I hear you. But the crack epidemic was not nearly as prolific and as p prevalent. As prevalent as fentanyl has become. It’s in every community. It’s in all over the country. Crack was confined to urban areas. It seemed to me. I covered the crack epidemic now. Not every rural area was immune from it, but many, many, many were. And you just didn’t see it as much as you see fentanyl, which is now the problem because fentanyl, as Charlie said earlier, is now in everything. And that’s part of the issue that’s so prevalent. It’s so common. We use dope. Dealers are using fentanyl a little bit like the way we use salt on salad or food, whatever. We just throw it on there cause because why? Because it’s easy. It’s cheap and boost things and
Speaker 5 (00:20:11):
People want to buy that. When you’re looking for dope, you’re looking for the thing to give you the kick. So somebody was a, I’m going to ask you. Somebody was asking me why would they put fentanyl and stuff. I said, well, fentanyl’s cheap. It’s easy to smuggle, right? True. You can grind up parsley, put a couple of grains of fentanyl in it and it’s super weed. You can take Johnson’s baby powder, put some couple grains of fentanyl in it and it’s awesome cocaine. Correct, right?
Speaker 8 (00:20:43):
Yes. And the difference though is that it, there’s a various stories, okay, so it’s not one story, but frequently it’s people even sometimes the lowest street dealers don’t really know what they’re selling. Sometimes it’s people above that who are selling it, but it’s really the Mexicans though. You don’t find cocaine and meth and heroin and marijuana mixed coming across the border mixed with fentanyl. That mix is happening lower to the street. But another reason, there’s two other reasons why that would happen. One is that it’s a sloppy mix. Now, initially I thought that was pretty much that accounted for. A lot of it people don’t know what they’re doing, so they have a pile of this and a pile of that and they just kind of make a mistake. I think though that those days are pretty much over. I think really what this is about is boosting the drug, as you say.
That’s absolutely true. And then also when you give a fentanyl to a cocaine, a customer who buys cocaine from you twice a week, pretty soon that person is no longer a cocaine customer who’s a fentanyl addict. He’s getting that dope sick and he’s got to come back for more. And pretty soon that customer is a full-fledged fentanyl addict and buying from you every single day. And here’s the thing about fentanyl, unlike heroin, very different. It’s a magnificent anesthetic. It’s a revolutionary anesthetic and a wonderful drug when used in the surgical setting because it takes you in and out of anesthesia very quickly. So it’s had fentanyl. When I had a heart attack, they gave me fentanyl, said, been used in cardiac surgery for decades. It’s a wonderful, wonderful drug used surgically. The problem is, when used IIT illicitly in the street, what made it once a benefit is now a torment for users because now it’s taking you in and out very quickly.
You’re never very far away from that dope sickness because it’s always kicking you off and you’re constantly having to use. So a user has to end up, might have used twice or three times heroin twice or three times a day. Now it’s using fentanyl 5, 6, 7 times a day. And now you are never quite sure the mix either. So every time is a game of Russian roulette and you’re seeing this happen all across the country. So first it was heroin and initially it was being mixed with fentanyl, but very quickly after that it was cocaine and the methamphetamine and now marijuana as you say, because it makes a ton of benefit to the dealers, not to the users.
Speaker 5 (00:23:16):
If we could stop for a public service announcement, and I mean this and I started last week’s show, I would like to dedicate this program in particular to my brother Pete because he was just doing what we all do. He is just going out for a Friday night and he never came back. So I would suggest if you smoke weed that you go to the dispensaries and if you pills don’t get things you think of that are pills, go to the doctor, go to legitimate source. Am I right, Sam? Don’t
Speaker 8 (00:23:55):
Speaker 5 (00:23:55):
Off the streets
Speaker 8 (00:23:57):
There, isnt it really? It seems to me the fentanyl has really spelled the end of the recreational drug use era in America. You cannot just take a line or a pill at a party. The other thing that’s happening, cause of these pill, the enormous quantities of fentanyl is that the ma trafficking world in Mexico has shifted now to making counterfeit pill pills that look like Percocet, Xanax bars, oxycodone generics Adderall, various pills like that. And all they have in them is fentanyl, but they’re making them by the tens of millions. It’s a staggering amount of pills that they are making. And these are pills now that are, again, all across the country is speaking and they’re all over the west. But I was speaking with a prosecutor in New York City saying we are seeing huge numbers of these pills now too in New York City. So it’s changed.
There’s a thing on the street that says fentanyl has changed everything. That’s true. I really think fentanyl and methamphetamine too. We can get to that story in a minute, but it’s a staggering thing because the truth is too that people last decades on heroin, you can last 30 years on heroin, not a good life but you can last on fentanyl. The truth is nobody lasts. It’s two years and if you don’t get off the street, if you’re going to treatment, you get out away from the dope, you are going to die. And I think that’s what the local scenes are showing. I keep talking to her to drug tra counselors. They keep telling me exactly that. There’s nobody who really survives fentanyl long term. But of course, fentanyl dope dealers are all about the short term profit right now. They don’t care about a year from now, much less month them from
Speaker 5 (00:25:44):
Now. There’s always that argument like that’s a bad business model. Well, you don’t understand it. The industry is the right now. Nobody’s plotting the customer base 10 years from now, hopefully people now,
Speaker 8 (00:25:56):
Man. And the other thing is, this happened with that fentanyl that was coming up from Mexico in 2006. The authorities in Chicago, they call it, they didn’t know what they were dealing with. They said, we’ve got this very powerful new form of heroin coming in. Please do not use, well, of course every addict in Chicago made a beeline for that heroin because that’s the way you do it. If something’s killing people, that means it must be really good dope. So get down there and do it. And that is a phenomenon that people are now seeing. The more people want, the more people use and get addicted to fentanyl, the more they’re demanding fentanyl. And if people are dying from a certain batch or a certain dealer’s fentanyl, they’re going to go to that dealer.
Speaker 5 (00:26:43):
If I could ask this Sam, the Oxycontin avalanche really basically that killed white people and to a lesser extent, but at a similar rate, native Americans. And now with fentanyl, it’s really, really affecting the black community
Speaker 8 (00:27:04):
And it’s affecting many more people for the first time affecting the black community in what I guess technically you because it’s an opioid, fentanyls and opioid. You could call the opioid epidemic. Really though, this starts with the idea that within the African, African-American drug dealing community, they figured out that if I put fentanyl into cocaine, that it’ll boost the cocaine, which has been stepped on several times because it comes all the way from Columbia. But then also you’ll create a new form of customer, a much more regular, much more devoted customer because that person will be strung out on an opioid fentanyl, which requires ’em to use all the time. But that’s also where the death toll begins to really begin to mount in the black community, particularly in the least of us. I write the story of the first African American man in Akron, Ohio.
Mikey Tanner Jr. Who at 30 had battled cocaine for 10 years, but he doesn’t last two months, I don’t think, with fentanyl in the Coke drug stream. And he dies of that, spoke with his sisters about that. So I tell his story, but that is really what begins to happen in first in those towns that I mentioned and I Akron Cleveland, et cetera. But then after a while, it’s pretty much all across the country. And for the first time you begin to see African Americans dying of an opioid, although it’s not like the same. It’s not from the pills, from doctors frequently people dying because they think they’re using cocaine and that cocaine has fentanyl in it.
Speaker 9 (00:28:49):
Speaker 5 (00:28:50):
Is it fair to say I feel it. I don’t know if it’s fair to say you’re the expert that all of this look, there’s personal responsibility and there are people out there, Hey man, it’s star wind that’s on you. Use a good for you. Did all of this start from the legal mob, the big pharma, their friends in the government? DEA is, can we please blame on legitimate business for how we’re infected Now with this,
Speaker 8 (00:29:20):
I would say I spoke last night as a matter of fact with a fellow who’s been involved in a drug rehab clinic’s, methadone clinics, particularly for like 40 years. And I was asking em, particularly the people you’re seeing on fentanyl, what’s their backstory? What is their story generally? Obviously you don’t have every patient you have, but what is your thought on that? And he says, yeah, some people start because they get these cocaine and they get addicted, or the recreational drug uses, they get something with fentanyl in it and boom, they’re off to the raises. But a significant number are people who started with pain pills long before fentanyl ever hit the street. So that echo of the story that we were telling last week about the pain pills to heroin, that is still having an echo. And that is still a major part of the consumer market that the trafficking world in Mexico is counting on for its fentanyl sales.
Of course there are other people now being added to that. Other people are dying. It’s a throbbing, robust kind of moving kind of ecosystem. But a lot of those folks I keep talking to people about these kinds of things and I keep hearing that a good number of folks got addicted this stuff because of a car accident, because of an athletic accident, because of some operation, and they kept using the pills. But it starts with this very, very aggressive, almost careless approach to prescribing opioid pain killers for pain by legitimate doctors and surgeons and then promoted by pharma companies.
Speaker 10 (00:30:58):
Speaker 6 (00:31:01):
Doesn’t that make big, go ahead, big. Doesn’t that make big pharma and perhaps the United States government our version of the cartel? I mean, this is the blueprint, big
Speaker 8 (00:31:13):
Pharma. Yes, it’s a good question. I think that there is let me put it this to this way. There are court cases in which parents have stood up primarily against Purdue Pharma that would be like the main one here and called them out on that. You’re just nothing but a big drug trafficking cartel. And there are elements of that. In fact, the reason I got into writing my first book Dreamland on this topic was because I saw parallels between the way the companies were marketing opioids and my guys from this heroin town, this town in Mexico, Mexico where everybody came north to sell heroin, like pizza, were marketing heroin. You know, see very similar approaches. And to me, that’s really that was what made me think, this is a book. I’ve got to write this book because this is something no one’s writing about. And I saw these parallels between them.
And so there’s a lot of people who say that. I’d say they’re significant differences, of course between drug cartels in Mexico and drug companies in the United States. But once you get into selling opioids, again, I think I mentioned this last time, once you get into selling opioids, you become addicted to the money. Just like any addict becomes addicted to the opioid. And that’s what changes things. It’s not like selling hypertension medicine or something like that. It’s a very different beast, very hard to control. And people get very addicted to that cash that they can generate. And that’s the way that, that’s one particular way. And they seem to be very, very similar. The cartels in Mexico when the company’s up in the United States, you
Speaker 5 (00:33:01):
Want to know what else I think is a cartel? Are the political parties just the way that our government is conducted because someone else to blame is the revolving door between these big companies and yes, and government. Like Wall Street goes to the United States, treasury goes back to Wall Street. If you look at the pharmaceutical industry, what was it d Lyndon Barber, this guy, he was the As associate chief council for the Drug enforcement Agency. He was responsible for bringing to justice these companies, these distributors that would, oh my god, there’s a million Oxycontin pills being shipped, but there’s no prescriptions for it. Right? Couple years later in 2011, he goes to work for the pharmaceutical industry and to help ’em write the law, which neutered the DEA from being able to confiscate these pills without prescriptions. Right brother?
Speaker 8 (00:34:09):
Well, I, I’m not familiar with him but I would say that there is that tendency, you see this kind of cross pollination if you like, bleeding back and forth that is very unsettling and does not allow you to, I’ve seen too many people also from I think from the DEA, go into these drug companies and work for these drug companies. To me, that does not sit well, that guy’s case I’m on, I’m familiar with. But in general I would say that there’s too, a little bit too much of that.
Speaker 5 (00:34:43):
I got look at that. Yeah, the world’s expert was, I gave him a case he was unfamiliar with. Look at that.
Speaker 8 (00:34:49):
Speaker 5 (00:34:50):
Indeed. You went to Cal Berkeley, didn’t you?
Speaker 8 (00:34:52):
I did indeed. Look at
Speaker 5 (00:34:53):
That. A lot of years I went to Cal Berkeley. That and still brothers we’re like a mob ourselves right there. But that’s upsetting to me. Whether it’s Bush or Obama or Trump, there’s this just this merry-go-round and the real people are suffering and we’re not seeing it. We’re not seeing it. It’s killing us. Now, I told Mark earlier, I don’t care about this proportion of society, focu, I don’t, but I want to talk to you for a minute. It does affect all of us because what Sam just said was what no one was writing about. You want to know what else Sam used to work for the LA Times? He was a cop reporter. That’s the best way to do this, Sam. I don’t know. How long does it take? You write a book, five years, all the work to
Speaker 8 (00:35:46):
Do 12, 3, 4, 3
Speaker 5 (00:35:47):
Or four years from idea to getting it in and getting it accepted.
Speaker 8 (00:35:53):
Speaker 5 (00:35:54):
Meth, meth and homelessness. So let’s go back to 2006, thereabouts. Again, the United States starts to get its grip on ephedrine. The Mexican government, if I’m from your writing, they outlawed. Is that correct?
Speaker 8 (00:36:11):
In 2008, the Mexican government has been cutting down on the amount of ephedrin it’ll allowed to be imported into Mexico. And in 2008 it says no, only very small amounts and only to certain companies. And so the problem with the Mexican traffickers face is that they’ve been using diverted ephedrin from those imports to make their methamphetamine. They become very good at making ephedrin based methamphetamine and they’ve industrialized it and they’ve been selling it. Now most of that, they don’t have enough ephedrin to sell it. Beyond the west, large chunks of the Western United States never crosses the Mississippi River. So in the rest of the United States, what you see are homegrown momand, pop shaken, baked cooks who are making it maybe an ounce at a time,
Speaker 5 (00:37:01):
Go steal a bunch of suda fed from home. Exactly, Lowe’s or whatever, not
Speaker 8 (00:37:06):
Low, whatever. 2008, the Mexican trafficking world sees their golden goose is killed, that got this great profitable drug. It’s meth, taught them the benefits of synthetic drugs, not fentanyl. They would’ve been making meth long before Fentanyl. They’ve figured out better to make your drugs rather than grow them. But all of a sudden they can’t get this incre. And so they have to switch. But there’s a lot of chemists they can now, they can now have available or they forced to be available to them. And those chemists say there’s another way of making methamphetamine that the bikers, the hell’s angels in California used to use. It’s very messy. It stinks, but it has one benefit. This method has only one benefit. It’s made with a chemical known as P two P, phenol two, propone P two P for short. And this is a precursor that is you can make in many, many different ways.
You can make it with all kinds of different chemicals different combinations of chemicals. So the benefit to traffickers is that can the government cannot crack down as it cracked down on ephedrine. You just throttle the amounts of one drug that’s available to them and their industry is suffocating. So now they can make this one precursor essential ingredient, this precursor ingredient. They can make it a dozen, 15, 20, 30 different ways. And most of those ways involve chemicals that are legal, industrial, highly toxic and very cheap. And if they can get them from the entire world, most of ’em are not made in Mexico, but you can get them imported. So you control ports, you can get these ingredients. And this also begins, a similar story begins to happen with methamphetamine has happens later with fentanyl. And that is that they begin to learn how to make this P two P method of making methamphetamine.
And increasingly they scaled that learning curve. And by 2000, I would say 11, 12, 13, you see more and more people getting in. A lot of the couples are selling the chemicals they want people to make more. So they’re selling the chemicals to producers and they’re making was a big meth rush. And huge amounts of this drug begin to be made beginning 12, 13. And you begin to see it just take over the western of the United States. First it dislodges crack from skid row la I never thought I’d ever see that. Wow. But it dislodges crack becomes the drug of choice to this day is still the drug, main drug in skid row. La You see it all over the we in Vegas, up in Portland and Albuquerque, et cetera. And then by 2017 and 18, it keeps marching across the country. It’s the Midwest, 2017, 18, all those little shaken bake mom and pop meth cooks, they’re all run right out of business like Walmart does to Main Street. And then by 2019, they’re up. It meth is up into New England, which has never had any methamphetamine of any sustained quantities. And what you see is too, it’s a staggering thing because at the same time, again, they’re covering the country with this stuff. They also drop the price by 80%. I mean, it’s amazing. I live in Nashville where six, seven years ago, the price for a wholesale pound of meth was $16,000. It’s now $2,000. It’s just an amazing drop.
Speaker 5 (00:40:27):
And it’s for the audience, correct me if I’m wrong, meth is a stimulant and opiates are a depressant, right?
Speaker 8 (00:40:38):
Depressant. And what happens is you begin to see a reversal of what historians have always said was the nature of the drug market in America, which is we go through cycles, right? Stimulants to depressants, to stimulants, to depressants. 10, 15 years each cycle. There’s a definite cyclic. Cyclic. But these two drugs flatten out that cycle. Now it’s fentanyl and meth. Meth and fentanyl, depending on where you are. One’s more important than the other, but they’re both prevalent, they’re both everywhere and they’re both in such staggering quantities that they’re massively affecting the drug market. But with methamphetamine, Samuel has its own issues. Mainly the fact that it kills people without fail. Meth has, its another issue. And I found this out later in the writing of my book. I met a guy who was telling me when I began using methamphetamine in oh one, been using, it was a party drug.
It was a great drug. I was a friend of everybody, the best friend of jabbering away all night. I held onto my life. I could function even though my life was kind of unraveling to some degree. I was still had a job, a house and girlfriend of car, all that kind of stuff. And then in 2009, precisely it hit me when he said this precisely one year after the Mexican government had restricted imports of ephedrine, you begin to see the first supplies of P two P meth coming into the United States in 2009. He said, I used it. And the first time in eight years of been using in methamphetamine, all of a sudden it drove me to unbelievable paranoia psychosis that I wasn’t able to even understand there. I thought my girlfriend was hiding a boyfriend in the walls in the mattresses. I was out of my mind.
He said it for the next five years I was still until I got sober. That was, I was psychotic pretty much the entire time and very, very quickly then thrown out of every place he had to live, lost his apartment. Mom and dad wouldn’t take him, and girlfriend didn’t want him anymore. All of this began to happen. And I began to think, he told me this story one night at a pizzeria and I thought to myself, this methamphetamine is all over the country that he’s describing this P two P meth. What if I’ve been asking the wrong or haven’t been asking the right questions? And that is what if all across this country, there are people who are now on top of it addicted to meth, but they’re also psychotic part. And sure enough, I began to call around and all over the country, West Virginia, Eastern t c, Albuquerque Southern Indiana, LA Skid, on and on.
There’s a bunch of places I called and every place reported the same thing. It was a staggering kind of repertorial journalistic moment when I go, holy shit, this stuff is not only across the country and sheer than ever, but it’s also creating symptoms of schizophrenia symptoms, psychosis in massive amounts everywhere it lands. And very quickly that mental illness and that drug addiction is leading to homelessness. And very quickly the ho homelessness is leading to 10 encampments. And 10 encampments become kind of the place where you are most at home. If you are addicted to meth, the last place you want to be addicted to methamphetamine is in a homeless shelter because everybody’s out of there. You know, just surrounded by people who are like, everyone’s a threat. And so the tent encampment becomes the new form of homelessness. And I believe very strongly now that you are a major driver in the mental illness and homelessness problem that many communities are having all across the country is driven by this vast quantities of methamphetamine coming out of Mexico since 2009, but really since like 2011, 12 and 13.
Speaker 5 (00:44:27):
That’s interesting because the explosion of homelessness, the tenant captains, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Portland, that’s where you really see it in thousands really lines up with the timeline. You’re laying out with legal maneuvers cartel behavior, fasting is there. What’s the solution, bro?
Speaker 8 (00:44:55):
Well, lemme tell you this though, before you get into that, let me say this, that homelessness has many causes. It’s a very complicated thing, probably as complicated as every person who is homeless. You can go homeless, get in, get homeless because become homeless, be because you are aged out of foster care, release from prison without any family support, domestic violence, child abuse you have a surgery, you lose a job, you’re evicted. All these things are reasons for homelessness. Drug addiction is certainly right there at the top. But the other thing that’s part of this mix, it’s important to keep in mind, it causes this drug, these two drugs, meth I would say especially seems to cause homelessness very quickly. But the other thing it does is keep people homeless regardless of why initially you are homeless, foster care, whatever, it happens to me, you lose your apartment.
The drugs are so prevalent on the street of Methodist particular is so prevalent on the street that it keeps people who are home homeless regardless of the reason they first fell into homelessness. It could be economics, could be molestation, domestic violence, whatever. Once you’re using on the street, it becomes very difficult then to get away. And you find people in tentin chemists refusing help even though the temperatures are dropping to lethal levels, even though you’re being dumped out and beaten and living in feces and all that, people do not leave their tentin chemists because they are so dominated by their range. Chemistry is so dominated by the dope. So it’s not just that these drugs cause homelessness, which they believe they do in many cases, but in the many more cases that people are homeless for other reasons, it keeps people homeless. That’s also a very important thing to keep in mind. You find this all over the country. People just fall into meth and pretty soon they’re out of their minds. They’re unable to really have a coherent, rational conversation with anybody. And you see this over and over and over all across the country. I think,
Speaker 5 (00:47:02):
Well, the beauty of your latest book, the least of us, is think about what that says the least of us, that you’re a humanist and that we do matter. That
Speaker 8 (00:47:16):
Speaker 5 (00:47:17):
Those that die, those that live in these boxes, child, they’re from some place and they matter. And I think, again, man I think everybody’s heard your intellect and your knowledge, but the beauty of your pen and the beauty of your soul, and I mean that I absolutely thank you. I absolutely mean that. I wanted to say that. And I will say this, thank you very much. I’m going to give I’m going to get out. I’m going to, red wants to ask you something. I’m sure Karen does, and I used to fire away. I want to thank you for being here.
Speaker 8 (00:47:51):
My pleasure, great honor Charlie, I really appreciate your interest. Thanks so much. Fire away guys.
Speaker 11 (00:47:57):
Sam, I wanted to ask you, and Charlie kind of asked you right there near the end, the solution with the drugs being manufactured from a chemical base level now you cannot just stop ’em from coming from the root. What do you see the solution being? Will legalizing drugs make it safer for a problem we can never really get rid of? So it’s coming from a controlled source or what do you see being the solution?
Speaker 8 (00:48:23):
Here’s the, oh man, that’s a whole other hour of conversation. I want you guys to know,
Speaker 5 (00:48:28):
Well, I’m going to turn my underpants inside. I don’t
Speaker 8 (00:48:31):
See you, so I’m reluctant to get into it because people misunderstand some of the things I say and they get very mad at me and all that. But I’m going to say this, I’m that I believe we do not have a culture in America that allows for the safe and mature and adult legalization of drugs. We just do not stand up to large concentrations of power, money and political influence. And that’s what big pharma is, big alcohol, a big oil. And I believe that I, other countries might do a better job of that. I just don’t see us doing it very well, honestly. So I’m reluctant to suggest that maybe legalizing this. What I do believe though is this is not a natural state of affairs. And this is brought on largely because of two words, capitulation and neglect, capitulation giving up on the part of the Mexican government.
Number one, how they just have said, well, no, we’re not going to do anything about it and the corruption issue is crippling our country, but oh well, and we’re not doing anything currently. The president of Mexico is basically of that mindset seems to me and neglect, and that is mean part of the United States particularly. I want to emphasize what I said earlier, and that is particularly the guns that are going south into Mexico, bought here, wantonly, maddeningly, we have not, despite all the shootings, particularly with assault weapons, we still have allowed for the weapon, these weapons to be sold and in a very, I think very irresponsible ways and all, a lot of those guns are going straight up down to the cartel. It is as if we might as well be arming isis. Okay? I do believe, I lived in Mexico for 10 years and maybe I’m being naive, but you know what?
I’m tired of cynics. I’m tired of cynics. I want to believe in something. I want to believe something is hopeful. And I do believe after living in Mexico 10 years, that if we would mount a concerted, sustained long-term effort to collaborate with Mexico on these issues, that we would be put a major dent in the drug in these synthetic drugs because the traffickers themselves have painted themselves into a corner. They now rely for those scatter staggering profits that come along with the staggering quantities of drugs they’re making. They now have to get their chemicals from only a handful of ports. There’s not a lot of places where they can get these drugs. And so if there is, was a sustained, responsible, mature, and well paid law enforcement effort, maybe collaborative effort between the two countries to watch these ports to make sure that they’re being, the chemicals that are coming through there are not going into the wrong hands.
I don’t think it would be the most difficult job in the world. I actually think it might be very, very easy once you have collaboration. But again, the lesson of these epidemics, I believe, is that we have, they are symptoms of our own shredding community, of our own fragmentation, of our own isolation in the United States. That’s what these things are about and that’s what their symptoms of, and again, with regard to national and international relations, we don’t really collaborate with Mexico. We just like each one does their own thing and points a finger at the other and says, you’re the blame. Well, both countries share a significant amount of the blame and they could easily, not easily, but with it’s, it would not be an impossible speech,
Speaker 5 (00:52:32):
Sam, we’re all making a profit. Yeah,
Speaker 6 (00:52:35):
That’s what I was going to say. There’s one there. One word that you haven’t mentioned that to me is the center of all of this, and that’s greed. And you talked about the cooperation that there was a structured approach. That’s the same thing we talk about when we talk about people coming over here across the border. There’s no real interest in doing any of this. I just saw something that says the system isn’t broken, it’s fixed, it’s structured this way, and it is, it’s all about greed. It’s still greed from big pharma. It’s greed from the government, and I want to believe in something too. But the reality is that I’m starting to believe that this is just how it is.
Speaker 8 (00:53:17):
I don’t know. I, I feel that and I can see why people would believe that or think that. And there’s ample reason to be skeptical and all. I just think having lived in Mexico for 10 years, I see there’s an enormous reservoir of goodwill in Mexico towards the United States. I think there’s probably the same here. And I think that this has never been tried. It’s never been done. No president in my lifetime has ever paid the kind of attention to Mexico, which it requires. And I think true collaboration, you find this everywhere. This is part of what I wrote about in the least of us. Through collaboration at the community level, you find solutions. That’s how the only way you find solutions to this is when people come together. It’s very easy when everyone’s in isolation as we are now to say, well, it’s hopeless, it’s pointless. There’s no point. No
Speaker 5 (00:54:14):
Speaker 7 (00:54:16):
Well, I was going to say, Sam, I feel like one way
Speaker 5 (00:54:18):
Second to last question here. Sorry.
Speaker 7 (00:54:20):
<laugh>. One way to get maybe Mexico to care a little bit is if they’re people apply some pressure. Do the large cities in Mexico, do they have fentanyl or meth issues like we do here? Or is it all just
Speaker 8 (00:54:33):
Coming? Yeah, not really. The meth has become an issue since it began be made in the nineties, but really it’s not as widespread there. It’s a complicated thing. And again, we would need a whole nother hour to talk about why this might be possible and why Karen’s skepticism. While justified may not be the only story, but again, we don’t have a whole other time. It’s a very long process. It would need to take place. But I do believe in it. I do believe that there is, if you live in Mexico, you understand why that’s the case. Now you’re up against greed. Sure. You’re up against people who become extraordinarily vicious and pursuit of that greed or extraordinarily callous as in the Sackler found and pursuit of that degree. Of course, of course. But there are other things that are happening that are antidotes to that. There’s the enormous kind of shredding of community that’s going on that people do not want either here or in the United States. I believe there’s an enormous reservoir of desire to be able to work together, but we don’t even have the least bit of connection. I mean, we do kind of superficially, but how many people, Americans do you think could name the six states of Mexico, the border of the United States? How many do you think
Speaker 5 (00:56:12):
Speaker 7 (00:56:14):
Speaker 5 (00:56:19):
Speaker 7 (00:56:20):
<laugh>. There’s one. Only one. American. Well,
Speaker 5 (00:56:23):
You That’s single, bro. I got single last
Speaker 8 (00:56:28):
Speaker 5 (00:56:29):
One last one, last one. Coming under currently with the flood of migrants coming over the border, the confiscation of fentanyl at record levels. What’s the connection if there’s anything?
Speaker 8 (00:56:47):
No, no, no. It’s it. This is not created by people crossing the border as migrants. There are seizures of people with dope strapped of their tummies, or I saw one guy the other day had a cane full of pills, that kind of thing. But we’re talking about quantities that only can be smuggled in trucks. Trucks and cars and coming through ports of entry, border crossing.
Speaker 5 (00:57:19):
Okay. Hey man I love you. I, I think I got a new friend here. Will you be my friend, Sam?
Speaker 8 (00:57:26):
Oh, absolutely. Try God.
Speaker 5 (00:57:27):
That’s pathetic. That’s pathetic. Was that, how dope was that? Oh man,
Speaker 11 (00:57:32):
Listen here. I cannot wait to finish both books. I thank you for investing the time to bring this discussion to the table on this man’s level
Speaker 5 (00:57:41):
Because think of this man’s life. Yeah, think of, he’s talking about pizzerias and did you go to the Sam, you still there?
Speaker 8 (00:57:50):
Speaker 5 (00:57:52):
In Dreamland. I don’t know if you actually entered into that famous government building where they were conducting L S D test or you were hanging out on the outside of it.
Speaker 8 (00:58:04):
No. Oh, no. Oh, I want you what you mean. Sure, sure. You mean the narcotics farm? The prison that had become in the 1930s in Lexington, Kentucky. They opened, FDR opened as part of the New Deal for addicts. That’s what they called it. They opened two prison hospitals where, and the most important ones was Lexington, Kentucky, where they had, it was a remarkable thing. There’s a book called The Narcotics Farm. It’s very basically a picture book, photos. It’s fascinating book where p addicts from all over the country would come. It was probably the most integrated part of the entire United States, probably in the most integrated 10 acres of the United States. Literally gay, straight, everybody was there. And in fact, so many jazz musicians have been getting addicted to heroin because of Charlie Parker. Everybody wanted to play like Charlie Parker, and he was a heroin addict.
People thought that they all, so many of them began going to this narcotics firm that they had one of the greatest jazz bands ever assembled in America for about, yeah, Sonny Rollins went there, tad Damron Jackie McClean, all these great, great, I think Jackie McClean went there. Anyway, there’s a bunch of great jazz musicians and they never recorded, but they would play. And all the hipsters from Lexington would go up to the Narcotics Farm to hear this great jazz band, this great jazz band play in the seventies. It got very weird. And the experimentation with L S D and they closed it, and now it’s just a straight up prison hospital, but it still exists. And they wouldn’t let me in tour the place. But I was there one day. I just won New Year’s Day as a matter of fact, 2013, I was a snow and I was just driving around the thing, just taking notes on what this place looked like, because it was like the first attempt to deal.
I thought it was actually a pretty good attempt, frankly, to deal with addiction in a different kind of way. All the prison, all the prison wardens were complaining because of the previous, by the thirties, because all the previous 20, 30 years we’d been arresting addicts putting ’em in prison, and they had been undermining the discipline of the prisons. The other inmates hated ’em, and they were always conniving and this kind of thing. So they said, why don’t we put ’em all in one prison? And actually worked fairly well until it got very weird in the 1970s. We need something like it again. I think,
Speaker 5 (01:00:32):
See that? I just asked them that the life of a true reporter, new Year’s snowing. I’m just hanging out at this fucking weird gray building writing notes. That’s what it takes. That’s why he’s brilliant. And that’s why everybody I know till I’m done talking on this earth, going to know about your work. Brother, thank you very much for being here.
Speaker 8 (01:00:58):
Great to be with you, Charlie, and all your others. Thanks so much for taking the time.
Speaker 6 (01:01:03):
Thank you. Great conversation.