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Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America

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 pil...

Title : Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780316523172
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America Reviews

  • ♥ Sandi ❣

    4 stars Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown and Company for a chance to read this book. Published August 7, 2018.

    For me this was a book that needed a bit of time, after reading, to be able to review it. The author Beth Macy is a favorite author of mine. I enjoy the way she lays her information out. Every book I have read by her was about a vastly different subject, but all were researched well and, although non fiction, were presented in a story-like offering.

    Obvious by the title, this boo
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  • Lauren

    "When a new drug sweeps the country, it historically starts in the big cities and gradually spreads to the hinterlands, as in the cases of cocaine and crack. But the opioid epidemic began in exactly the opposite manner, grabbing a toehold in isolated Appalachia, Midwestern rust belt counties, and rural Maine. Working-class families who were traditionally dependent on jobs in high-risk industries to pay their bills—coal mining in southwest Virginia, steel milling in western Pennsylvania, logging ...more

  • Peter Mcloughlin

    I have read several books on the opioid epidemic but never had I read a nonfiction narrative documenting such a landscape of relentless distress and horror. This book is heartwrenching as individuals and communities sink into levels of hell that grow worse and worse. The author Beth Macy is a reporter at a Roanoke Virginia newspaper and covers the story of the opioid epidemic from the grotesque greed of Purdue pharma which pushed these pills by taking doctors on junkets to sell their OxyCodone i ...more

  • carol.

    ***totally not a finished review

    A problematic read for me. Yes, I know, awards and all that. But I honestly think the awards go to the fact that Macy made Oxycontin and heroin part of a national conversation, not because this book was exemplary journalism.

    Issue 1: Journalism is not essay writing, and it's also not research writing, but Macy doesn't seem to be great at any of it. Apparently, before the book-writing gig, she had a job doing the 'human interest' stories. I can so see that. A profe
    ...more

  • Malia

    Dopesick is a very informative and well-written book about the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, I listened to the audiobook, and I really hate to whine about this, but the author narrates it, and her voice reminded me so much of that of Sarah Huckabee Sanders. This isn't anyone's fault, of course, but I do wonder whether a different performer might have brought more life to the narration. That being said, the author tells an important series of stories and does so in a compassionate way I fund co ...more

  • Matt

    “The informant leaned into [Lieutenant Richard] Stallard’s cruiser. ‘This feller up here’s got this new stuff he’s selling. It’s called Oxy, and he says it’s great,’ he said.

    ‘What is it again?” Stallard asked.

    ‘It’s Oxy-compton…something like that.’

    Pill users were already misusing it to intensify their high, the informant explained, as well as selling it on the black market. Oxy came in much higher dosages than standard painkillers, and an 80-milligram tablet sold for $80, making its potential f

    The 1996 introduction of OxyContin coincided with the moment in medical history when doctors, hospitals, and accreditation boards were adopting the notion of pain as “the fifth vital sign,” developing new standards of pain assessment and treatment that gave pain equal status with blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature.


    A paradigmatic shift turned patients into health care consumers. Accordingly, pharmaceutical companies sent their sales reps across the country to evangelize for new medications to prescribe to these customers.

    Macy devoted years to this story, and she begins Dopesick with the story of Perdue Pharma and OxyContin. She describes how this potent drug was sold to physicians, who then over-prescribed it to their patients. And when I say “sold,” I mean that in a literal sense. Sales reps were buying loyalty with free lunches and junkets and swag. Physicians, for their parts, were enjoying catered lunches and filling Oxy scripts with indefinite refills. At the time Oxy hit the market, unfortunately, it was not tamper resistant, meaning that this incredibly potent drug could be altered for an incredible high.

    This high came at an even more incredible cost.

    “Dopesick” is the term used to describe withdrawal, and it explains why opioids are so dangerous. Once your body has entertained the euphoria of opioids, it has a hard time going back. Symptoms of withdrawal include aches, diarrhea, fevers, profuse sweating, stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, restlessness, and irritability. A person undergoing this extreme manifestation of absence becomes desperate to reverse course, to feed the addiction in order to make the sickness go away. An addict will do anything to get enough money for the next hit. The slang junkie, after all, refers to a person who scrapped metal in order to support their addiction.

    Eventually, the trend that began with Oxy exploded into a rebirth of heroin, leading to a public health crisis that devastated rural communities, filling the boneyards and the prisons.

    Macy devotes a lot of time to following the resistance, a small band of people who tried to fight City Hall, even though City Hall had been purchased by Corporate America. We are introduced to a small-town doctor who was the canary in the coal mine, warning of Oxy’s dangers as he saw his patients dying; there is a dogged ATF agent, who broke one of Virginia’s largest heroin rings; there is a nurse practitioner who takes her mobile health wagon into the old coalfields, where the uninsured multitudes await; and there is a no-nonsense Catholic nun whose activism could help remind the moribund husk of a beleaguered Church that faith without works is dead.

    (Dopesick features beautiful black & white portraits of most of these people, taken specifically for the book. It adds a great deal to have a face to go along with the names).

    Perdue Pharma is an easy target. It is a corporation, after all, a molten mass of money surrounded by the impenetrable layers of the mythic “corporate veil,” endowed by the Supreme Court with all the rights of a human person, but none of the moral responsibilities or potential legal consequences.

    Macy, though, does not stop with them. She looks at the many other contributing factors, such as an acquiescent FDA, where top officials transition directly from the agency into high-paying corporate positions; and physicians who failed to do their due diligence before reaching for their Perdue Pharma ballpoints to write a script; and at the potency of opioids themselves, which makes recovery extremely difficult.

    In the latter half of Dopesick, Macy turns this into a furious critique of the treatment-industrial complex. She advocates strongly for medication assisted treatment (MAT), using drugs such as Suboxone to quell cravings and subdue withdrawal symptoms (without getting the person high). According to Macy, this is the only feasible way to break the epidemic. However, the legal and medical systems are extremely wary of using drugs to defeat drug addiction, even though we live in a hyper-medicated culture in which there is a prescription for everything.

    Dopesick is deeply researched, nicely balancing the big-picture statistics with on-the-ground reporting. But as hard as she tries, this is not a work of objective journalism. Macy was in the trenches a long time, essentially embedding herself in fraying communities. To follow these lives, she became a part of those lives, to the point where she would get texts from users asking her to drive them to rehab.

    Frankly, I do not see this as a problem. If journalism requires a person to put their humanity on hold, then journalism is not worth a damn. The surprising thing to me is that she was able to maintain her empathy. Addicts are extremely frustrating. I was a public defender for nine years, and the number of drug users I represented who maintained their sobriety was depressingly low. Addicts will – and do – steal from the people they love the most, lie to the people they love the most, let down the people they love the most. It becomes very hard, very quickly, to feel sorry for them.

    This brings us back to the mothers.

    Mothers are the beating heart of Dopesick, and we follow them closely as they try to save their kids. It makes for dispiriting reading, as these young people trade their futures to chase a high, joining a cycle of sobriety and relapse that lasts for years, and is physically and psychologically difficult to escape. From the outside, it is easy to say: Cut them off. Stop helping them. Let them go. Three strikes and you’re out. From the outside, it is easy to ask: When is it enough?

    But that is only what you say when it is not your child. Because when it is your child, there is never a point where you quit. And maybe that is the only redemption to be found in Dopesick: the mothers who keep trying to save their kids.

    Many of them do not succeed.

    Macy begins her book with a fitting line from Agatha Christie. “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world,” Christie writes in The Last Séance. “It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”

    Christie was describing a mother’s love, but she might have been describing opioids themselves. Unfortunately, it does not seem that even love can triumph over the ruthless power of an insidious drug. ...more

  • Jennifer

    "But you can't put a corporation in jail; you just take their money, and it's not really their money anyway. The corporation feels no pain."
    Beth Macy has made a name for herself with her award-winning research and journalism, and she put her skills to good use in covering America's opioid crisis from past to present. Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America discusses all the warnings history has left for us concerning the addictive qualities of opiates, referen ...more

  • Candie

    4.5 Stars

    This book is just so shocking but at the same time a lot of it is not. I learned so much and it made me so angry and sad. There is a history of drug addiction with many members of my family and I found this book really hard to read. I seriously don't think many books have ever made me so angry. How much of this disaster could be avoided, and how easily it is for people to cross the line and justify their actions when money is involved. When I read all of the stuff that the drug companie
    ...more