Summary and book reviews of Dopesick by Beth Macy

Dopesick

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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Book Summary

The only book to fully chart the devastating opioid crisis in America: An unforgettable portrait of the families and first responders on the front lines, from a New York Times bestselling author and journalist who has lived through it.

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.

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

After reading Macy's chilling account, you can't help but wonder if we have reached the point of ordinary: the addicted dying before they reach the age of 40 while people run away – or look away or pretend they don't see. You can't help but wonder if they is actually we. It's not our fault a drug hit the market and was overprescribed, and the Center for Disease Control was apathetic. But it is our fault when we neglect the addicted.   (Reviewed by Valerie Morales).

Full Review (1007 words).

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Media Reviews

New York Times
Essential reading...Macy follows one specific drug through the range of problems it has caused, the people it has hurt, the difficulties in fighting it (with plenty of too little, too late) and the glimmers of hope that remain.

Library Journal
Macy's use of current research by various experts makes clear how complex the opioid problem is, but the strength of this narrative comes from the people in the day-to-day battle.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Macy's forceful and comprehensive overview makes clear the scale and complexity of America's opioid crisis

Booklist
Starred Review. Although the realities are devastating, the doctors, the bereaved, and the advocates Macy introduces do offer hope. Hers is a crucial and many-faceted look at a still-unfolding national crisis, making this a timely and necessary read.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. An urgent, eye-opening look at a problem that promises to grow much worse in the face of inaction and indifference.

Author Blurb Senator Tim Kaine
Beth Macy writes about our opioid epidemic but Dopesick is not about the drugs. It's a book about kids and moms and neighbors and the people who try to save them. It's about shame and stigma and desperation. It's about bad policy, greed and corruption. It's a Greek tragedy with a chorus of teenage ghosts who know how to text but can't express how they feel.

Author Blurb Professor Anne C Case, Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Emeritus at Princeton University and Sir Angus Deaton, FBA Hon FRSE and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics
Everyone should read Beth Macy's story of the American opioid epidemic, of suffering, of heroism and stupidity, and of the corporate greed and regulatory failure that lies behind it. With compassion and humanity, Macy takes us into the lives of the victims, their families, law enforcement, and even some of the criminals. A great book!

Author Blurb Tom Hanks
Beth Macy is not satisfied with myths or side-bars. She seeks the very hearts of the people who are running the long marathons of struggle and survival - of Life. Dopesick is another deep - and deeply needed - look into the troubled soul of America.

Author Blurb Tony Horwitz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the National bestseller Confederates in the Attic
Beth Macy brings a big heart, a sharp eye, and a powerful sense of place to the story of ordinary Americans in the grip of an extraordinary crisis.

Author Blurb Elizabeth Catte, author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia
With the greatest compassion, Beth Macy plunges us into a world that deserves our knowing, filled with grieving mothers, cut-throat pharmaceutical executives, determined first-responders, and indifferent lawmakers...Dopesick is both a tribute to those who lost and a fierce rebuke to those who took, and the new guidebook for understanding this quintessentially American crisis.

Author Blurb Brian Alexander, author of Glass House
Dopesick will make you shudder with rage and weep with sympathy...Macy again shows why she's one of America's best non-fiction writers

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Deaths of Despair

Dopesick IllustrationThe deceased was a middle-age white man who liked to be called Horsey. A working-class Ohioan who left school after 11th grade, he toiled as a mechanic, then as a laborer and then he bounced around from job to job, barely making a living until he died of an opiod overdose. His death wasn't unusual. In 2015, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton established that white men and women without college degrees are dying faster than any other demographic.

In Dopesick, Beth Macy describes a rural America in which opioid abuse is 50% higher than in urban areas. Undereducation, unemployment, a disability culture, and destabilization of rural economies have created mental stress and anxiety and the behaviors to cope with that ...

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