Fentanyl, Inc. by Ben Westhoff

Rate: 4.5/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers):

Fentanyl, Inc. caught my attention as this topic has had major implications on my life from a cousin and his wife fighting a failing battle with addition, to my job as a chemist at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services where I developed one of the state’s first quantitative fentanyl analog tests.

Westhoff wrote clearly and with detail about a plethora of topics and as a result I learned so much about a wide variety of topics ranging from the history of many illicit drugs, to the basics of the dark web. He highlighted the devastating pharmaceutical company practices that have spawned the current crisis and put names to the professors who are looking for the next big medical breakthrough. So many of the compounds that I have worked with showed up in the pages of Fentanyl, Inc. with Westhoff filling in the history of these drugs and how they ended up on the illicit market. When first developing my screening analysis, I’d noticed that most of the analytes are named with conventional scientific formatting, such as furanylfentanyl or acetyl fentanyl, however there are a few compounds that stood out such as U-47700 and JWH-018, but thanks to this book I now know why these compounds have unique designations due to who made them.

Westhoff weaves a fluid story of drugs general that ventures into the history of psychedelics and MDMA, as well as synthetic cannabinoids, like K2. Moreover, he discusses the impact of illicit drug laws and scheduling with regard to the drug community’s reaction and adaptation. In this light, Fentanyl, Inc. doesn’t restrict itself within the borders of the United States as the laws, overdoses, and responses in other countries are discussed, with stark comparisons between the US and EU emphasized. China is at the forefront of much of Fentanyl, Inc. as this country produces a large quantity of the illicit fentanyl analogues and their precursors. Westhoff actually manages to infiltrate one company in China that produces the illegal compounds of interest, as well as meeting with a legitimate entity who toes the line  between peddling legal products in its home country while they are scheduled elsewhere. Overall, I haven’t been able to stop  talking about Fentanyl, Inc. since finishing this read earlier this week. Westhoff’s quality of research is evident in the breadth and quantity of interviews he procured for this book. That said, he definitely has opinion on the topic that shines through by the end of Fentanyl, Inc. that is indeed thought-provoking. 

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