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Ben Westoff keynote speaker

Ben Westhoff

    • Best-selling investigative journalist, speaker, and filmmaker
    • Author of Fentanyl, Inc. and writer for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic, and others
    • 2023 Recipient of the Norman E. Zinberg Memorial Lecture Award
Full Bio
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Fentanyl expert Ben Westhoff

Fentanyl expert Ben Westhoff

Ben Westhoff Speaker Biography

Ben Westhoff is a best-selling investigative journalist, speaker, and filmmaker focused on drugs, culture, and poverty. His books are taught around the country and have been translated into languages all over the world.

Westhoff’s Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Created the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic is the bombshell first book about fentanyl, which is causing the worst drug crisis in American history. For the book, Westhoff was the first journalist to go inside a Chinese drug lab; in two Chinese cities, pretending to be a buyer, he visited Breaking Bad-style operations making and selling fentanyls.

He tracked the origin of the fentanyl crisis, which grew out of the overprescription of pills like OxyContin. Fifty times stronger than heroin, fentanyl is now cut into all other illicit pills and powders. Meanwhile, other novel psychoactive substances (NPS) are replacing traditional drugs like marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and ecstasy. In the process, NPS are upending the drug-enforcement landscape with ever-changing formulas that stay two steps ahead of the law.

In Fentanyl, Inc. Westhoff explored this shadowy world at each step of the drug-distribution ladder, culminating with his revelation that the Chinese government is subsidizing the illicit fentanyl industry, which is killing tens of thousands annually. The book also chronicles addicted users and dealers around the globe, families of victims, law-enforcement officers, and underground harm-reduction organizers — presenting a shocking and riveting full anatomy of a crisis we are just beginning to understand, and the unsung heroes who are emerging to fight it around the globe.

Westhoff was interviewed about the book for Fresh Air and Joe Rogan, and has written about the fentanyl crisis for The New York Times, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, and many others. Since the book’s publication, Westhoff has advised top government officials on the fentanyl crisis, including from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and the U.S. State Department. He now speaks at conferences and summits around the country about the opioid crisis.

Westhoff’s 2016 book Original Gangstas: Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and the Birth of West Coast Rap is one of the best-selling hip-hop books of all time. It received raves from Rolling Stone and People, and a starred review in Kirkus. S. Leigh Savidge, Academy Award nominee and co-writer of Straight Outta Compton said it "may be the best book ever written about the hip hop world."

Westhoff has been interviewed as an expert commentator for CNN, BET, A&E, and ITV, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Library of Congress, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Rolling Stone, Daily Beast, New York, Forbes, Vice, Oxford American, Pitchfork, and others. He's been honored by the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Entertainment Journalism Awards, Religion Newswriters Association, Best Music Writing, Best of Southern Food Writing, L.A. Press Club, and the Missouri Press Association.


Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic

Ben's presentations include never-published media from his infiltration of Chinese drug operations and street-level fentanyl reporting in America. His talks focus on all aspects of the fentanyl crisis, from addiction to recovery, from law enforcement tactics to harm reduction efforts, and from the drug’s creation to its future.

Westhoff shows how fentanyl became the worst drug crisis in American history, and what we can do about it.

A deeply human story, Fentanyl, Inc. is the first deep-dive investigation of a hazardous and illicit industry that has created a worldwide epidemic, ravaging communities and overwhelming and confounding government agencies that are challenged to combat it.

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