Excerpt from Dopesick by Beth Macy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America

by Beth Macy

Dopesick by Beth Macy X
Dopesick by Beth Macy
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  • Published:
    Aug 2018, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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Print Excerpt

This evil is confined to no class or occupation. It numbers among its victims some of the best women and men of all classes. Prompt action is then demanded, lest our land should become…stupefied by the direful effects of narcotics and thus diseased physically, mentally, and morally, the love of liberty swallowed up by the love of opium, whilst the masses of our people would become fit subjects for a despot.

—Dr. W. G. Rogers, writing in The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, VA), January 25, 1884

A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.

—Agatha Christie, "The Last Séance" (from The Hound of Death and Other Stories)

Author's Note

In 2012, I began reporting on the heroin epidemic as it landed in the suburbs of Roanoke, Virginia, where I had covered marginalized families for the Roanoke Times for two decades, predominantly those based in the inner city. When I first wrote about heroin in the suburbs, most families I interviewed were too ashamed to go on the record.

Five years later as I finished writing this book, nearly everyone agreed for their names to be used, with the exception of a few, as noted in the text, who feared going public would jeopardize their jobs or their safety.

I'm indebted to the families I first met in 2012 who allowed me to continue following their stories as their loved ones grappled with rehab and prison, with recovery and relapse. I'm also grateful for insights gleaned from several rural Virginia families, advocates, and first responders, many of whom were quietly battling the scourge almost two decades before I appeared on the scene. Several law enforcement officials spoke with me on background and on the record, including a few who had arrested their own relatives for peddling dope. So did scores of doctors and other caregivers who, after working fourteen-plus-hour days, did not feel their work was complete without getting the story of this epidemic out there.

A few interviewees died before I had time to transcribe my notes, including one by his own hand after relapsing and fearing that his wife—whom he loved more than anything in the world—would divorce him. "If she ever figures out she don't need me," he confided, "I'm screwed."

Their survivors continued talking to me during their most fragile moments, generously texting and calling and emailing photographs long after their loved ones' battles were over. One requested my MP3 recording of her departed loved one's interview, so desperate was she to hear his voice again. Another shared her deceased daughter's journals.

I'm particularly indebted to four Virginia moms: Kristi Fernandez, Ginger Mumpower, Jamie Waldrop, and Patricia Mehrmann. More than anyone, they helped me understand the crushing and sometimes contradictory facets of an inadequate criminal justice system often working at cross-purposes against medical science, and a health care bureaucracy that continues pumping out hard-core pain pills in large doses while seeking to quell cravings and turn around lives with yet more medication.

In sharing their experiences, these mothers hoped readers would be moved to advocate for life-saving addiction treatment and research, health care and criminal justice reform, and for political leadership capable of steering America out of the worst drug epidemic in modern history. Until then, they hoped their children's stories would illuminate the need for patients not only to become more discerning consumers of health care but also to employ a healthy skepticism the next time a pharmaceutical company announces its latest wonder drug.

Excerpted from Dopesick by Beth Macy. Copyright © 2018 by Beth Macy. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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