In this masterful work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America's twenty-plus year struggle with opioid addiction. Read more...
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In this masterful work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America's twenty-plus year struggle with opioid addiction. From distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs; from disparate cities to once-idyllic farm towns; it's a heartbreaking trajectory that illustrates how this national crisis has persisted for so long and become so firmly entrenched.
Beginning with a single dealer who lands in a small Virginia town and sets about turning high school football stars into heroin overdose statistics, Macy endeavors to answer a grieving mother's question-why her only son died-and comes away with a harrowing story of greed and need. From the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, Macy parses how America embraced a medical culture where overtreatment with painkillers became the norm. In some of the same distressed communities featured in her bestselling book Factory Man, the unemployed use painkillers both to numb the pain of joblessness and pay their bills, while privileged teens trade pills in cul-de-sacs, and even high school standouts fall prey to prostitution, jail, and death.
Through unsparing, yet deeply human portraits of the families and first responders struggling to ameliorate this epidemic, each facet of the crisis comes into focus. In these politically fragmented times, Beth Macy shows, astonishingly, that the only thing that unites Americans across geographic and class lines is opioid drug abuse. But in a country unable to provide basic healthcare for all, Macy still finds reason to hope-and signs of the spirit and tenacity necessary in those facing addiction to build a better future for themselves and their families.
"An impressive feat of journalism, monumental in scope and urgent in its implications."--Jennifer Latson, The Boston Globe
- ISBN-13: 9780316551243
- ISBN-10: 0316551244
- Publisher: Little Brown and Company
- Publish Date: August 2018
- Page Count: 384
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
The damage done
BookPage Top Pick in Nonfiction, August 2018
Dopesick is no doubt the hardest book that award-winning journalist Beth Macy (Truevine, Factory Man) has written, and it left this reviewer in tears. Macy spent six years following families affected by the opioid epidemic in and around her adopted hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, and she begins by noting that several interviewees died before she had time to transribe her interview notes. It’s a heart-wrenching and thorough treatise on the national crisis that everyone knows about, but few deeply understand.
Macy addresses a wealth of complex issues in her engaging, spitfire prose, such as the difficulties of rehab and disagreements about the benefits of 12-step programs versus medication-assisted treatment. Macy is a masterful storyteller, and Dopesick is full of unforgettable stories, including those of policemen, caregivers, prosecutors and a dope dealer named Ronnie Jones.
Macy traces the origins of the crisis, which was perpetuated by Purdue Pharma, a company owned by one of the richest families in America. Purdue went from “selling earwax remover and laxatives to the most lucrative drug in the world”—prescription opioids they claimed were not addictive. As one Virginia lawyer aptly notes, “the victims were getting jail time instead of the people who caused it.”
Dopesick is dedicated to the memory of 10 opioid victims. Their stories and those of their surviving families form the heart of this book. There’s Jesse Bolstridge, a 19-year-old high school football star, and “blond and breezy” 21-year-old Scott Roth, who “looked like one of the Backstreet Boys.” Macy herself wasn’t immune to the heartache, admitting that there “were times that journalistic boundaries blurred,” especially when it came to the lively and likable young mother Tess Henry, whom Macy interviewed during drives to Henry’s Narcotics Anonymous meetings for several months.
There are no easy fixes, of course. Macy writes, “America’s approach to its opioid problem is to rely on Battle of Dunkirk strategies—leaving the fight to well-meaning citizens, in their fishing vessels and private boats—when what’s really needed to win the war is a full-on Normandy Invasion.” It’s indeed time to storm the beaches, and Dopesick is a moving, must-read analysis of a national crisis.