As I noted in my review of Dreamland by Sam Quinones, most of us either know someone or know someone who knows someone who has suffered from opioid addiction. This horrifying epidemic, precipitated by the release of the addictive painkiller OxyContin in 1996, has cost this country $1 trillion since 2001 through lost productivity and increased health care, social services, education, and law enforcement costs. And as of 2017, more than 64,000 people were dying every year from drug overdoses.
In DOPESICK, subtitled Dealers, Doctors, and The Drug Company That Addicted America, Beth Macy tells the stories of people who find themselves directly involved in the systemic problems associated with opioid addiction—the parents, children, and grandchildren whose lives are affected; the doctors who have either contributed to or fought this problem; the law enforcement officials who find themselves overwhelmed; and even the drug dealers who flatly admit that the “shit don’t stop”—meaning, You can arrest me, but 10 more dealers will take my place. The demand is relentless. Macy cites a recent Harvard Medical School study that it takes the typical opioid-addicted user eight years and four to five treatment attempts—to achieve remission for just a single year.
You might not want to read such bad news. This is an epidemic that crosses every demographic line, and it has not even peaked yet. But Macy provides some glimmers of hope that we could turn the corner, and many individuals are working to solve this problem.
Regardless of your role, becoming informed by reading this book could be a helpful step.