Ben Westhoff


Fresh Air

Benjamin Westhoff

This week I was on Fresh Air, speaking with Dave Davies about Fentanyl Inc. It was a highlight of this hectic, wonderful week of the book’s release, which included a reading at the St. Louis County Public Library, pictured above. Next week I’m in Washington D.C., New York, and Boston, and you can see all of my tour dates here.

Excerpt in The Atlantic

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Today, The Atlantic published an excerpt from Fentanyl, Inc, entitled, “A Poison Factory in Plain Sight.” It’s about a Chinese chemical company called Yuancheng, pictured above, which operates out of a dilapidated hotel in the city of Wuhan. Employing hundreds of perky, recent college graduates as salespeople, it sells fentanyl precursors to Mexican cartels, American consumers, and anyone else who wants them. Fentanyl precursors are the main ingredients needed to make fentanyl, and are fueling the epidemic here in the United States; Yuancheng appears to sell more of them than any other company in the world. I’m very proud of this piece, and reporting it was quite an adventure. Yuancheng was one of two Chinese drug operations I infiltrated for Fentanyl, Inc. The book also describes my harrowing journey into a Shanghai lab, which synthesized fentanyl analogues and had Scarface-style mountains of drugs lying around.

Hearing Before Congressional Commission

Benjamin Westhoff
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Yesterday I testified on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. about fentanyl and China, before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan, bicameral congressional-advisory commission. I spoke about my findings from Fentanyl, Inc., in particular that China is subsidizing the production and export of fentanyl and fentanyl-like drugs. You can read more information about the hearing here, and even watch it on C-SPAN. It was a bit nervewracking but also exciting, as it was the first time I’d revealed my findings publicly, that China offers tax rebates and other subsidies for the drugs that are fueling the opioid epidemic in the U.S. and elsewhere.

First review of Fentanyl, Inc.

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The first Fentanyl, Inc. review has arrived, from Kirkus. It’s a starred review (!) and you can read the whole thing here. If this entices you, the book is now available on Amazon at a heavy discount.

“Compelling…Fascinating… [Westhoff] seamlessly blends past and present in his profiles of Belgian chemist Paul Janssen, who was responsible for fentanyl's initial development in 1959; police officers; politicians; LSD drug kingpins, and St. Louis street dealers. . . . Drawing material from official reports, drug databases, scores of interviews, and years of personal research, Westhoff presents an unflinching, illuminating portrait of a festering crisis involving a drug industry that thrives as effectively as it kills. Highly sobering, exemplary reportage delivered through richly detailed scenarios and diversified perspectives.” 

James Fallows endorsement

Benjamin Westhoff
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Many exciting things are happening in anticipation of Fentanyl, Inc.’s September 3 release date in the U.S. The UK cover is above; the book comes out there, and in Australia and New Zealand, on October 10. I’m thrilled that the back covers will have an endorsement from James Fallows of The Atlantic, an expert on China and many other subjects:

This is an exceptionally useful and well-timed book. I hope anyone concerned about this era’s new addiction epidemic will read it and put its messages to use. Ben Westhoff very skilfully combines pharmacology, politics, law enforcement, and gripping international intrigue in his account of America’s number-one public health problem. I hope Fentanyl, Inc is widely read and influential.

New book on fentanyl out next year

Benjamin Westhoff

I talked about my upcoming book about fentanyl and new drugs (due out next year on Grove/Atlantic) publicly for the first time recently. with Ben Kissel on his podcast Abe Lincoln's Top Hat. The interview gets into my infiltration of Chinese drug labs, as well as the opioid crisis and new drugs like K2 and Spice. Thanks a ton to Ben for having me on!

Some news

Benjamin Westhoff

Original Gangstas was used as the source material for a three-episode series on the Tupac and Biggie murders for the popular podcast, Last Podcast on the Left. The guys were very funny, and I am extremely grateful for their support. Not coincidentally, Original Gangstas just had a third paperback printing. 

Meanwhile, I'm in edits on my next book, due out next year on Grove/Atlantic. The book discusses the opioid crisis and focuses on the rise of fentanyl and other new drugs (like K2 and Spice), and for it I traveled all over the world, meeting everyone from addicts to kingpins. The most harrowing part was infiltrating drug operations in China, where most of these chemicals are made. I'm very proud of this book, so stay tuned for more updates and please subscribe to my mailing list at the bottom of this page.

Original Gangstas now in paperback

Benjamin Westhoff
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Original Gangstascomplete with sleek new cover and new subtitle, is now available in paperback! It’s in local stores, chain stores, and only $11 on Amazon.

“Scrupulously researched with many incisive revelations, this may be the best book ever written about the hip hop world.”―S. Leigh Savidge, Academy Award nominee and co-writer of Straight Outta Compton

“An elaborately detailed, darkly surprising, definitive history of the LA gangsta rap era.”―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An airtight and unflinching book. Original Gangstas is as resolute as the people and ideas it sets out to profile, and that is no small feat.”―Shea Serrano, New York Times bestselling author of The Rap Year Book