Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy
Publication date: August 7, 2018
Genres: Book Clubs, Crime, History, Non-fiction, Social Issues
Last week, I left behind heavy nonfiction with Adam Rippon’s memoir, Beautiful on the Outside, but today I’m back with a heavy dose of reality. Dopesick is Beth Macy’s well-researched and documented rise of opioid addiction in America. Specifically, in the Appalachians—starting with the over-prescribing of high dose Oxycontin to coal miners in the late 1990s. Macy weaves personal stories from users, law enforcement, dealers, and family members to hammer home the facts of this epidemic. Her focus is on the three aspects of the issue that she believes most contributed to where we are now: doctors, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, and dealers.
The book is under 300 pages but felt much longer simply because the facts are grim and just keep coming:
- 20% of American soldiers came back from Vietnam with symptoms of heroin dependence
- Americans comprise 4.4% of the world’s population but consume 30% of its opioids
- Pharma companies spent over $4 billion in direct marketing to doctors
It’s not pleasant reading, but it is eye-opening to anyone who has not been directly impacted by the crisis. Macy comes down especially hard on Purdue Pharmaceuticals, makers of Oxycontin, showing that not only were they aware of the drug’s addictive properties, but that to this day they continue to push the drug under the guise of helping people experience less pain.
Forget coal miners and cancer patients, for years they convinced dentists that having wisdom teeth removed necessitated a 30-day prescription, allowing the drug to migrate into younger and more affluent groups. From there, the jump to heroin is negligible. When the prescription drugs can’t be found, users turn to what they can get on the street. Anything to avoid what is called dopesick—the crash after the high.
Dopesick is useful reading to anyone who wants to educate themselves on opioids effect on the brain, the uphill battle for law enforcement, medication-assisted-therapy (which is not condoned by any of the standard 12 step programs, but has proven to be more successful in treating drug addiction), or the lack of any type of action from the current administration, despite promises to affect change. What began as a localized problem in high risk industries has now become a nationwide epidemic. Macy makes clear: it’s closer to you than you think and we all need to be educated.
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