Dopesick (Macy)

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America 
Beth Macy, 2018
Little, Brown and Company
384 pp.

Dopesick is the only book to fully chart the devastating opioid crisis in America: "a harrowing, deeply compassionate dispatch from the heart of a national emergency" (New York Times) from a 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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1964
Raised—Urbana, Ohio, USA
Education—B.A., Bowling Green State University; M.F.A., Hollins University
Awards—J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award
Currently—lives in Roanoke, Virginia

Beth Macy is an American journalist and non-fiction writer. She grew up in Urbana, Ohio, and received her BA in journalism from Bowling Green State University in 1986. She earned an MA in creative writing from Hollins University in 1993. She has spent 25 years as a reporter for the Roanoke Times (1989 to 2014).

In 2010, Macy was awarded the Nieman Fellowship for Journalism by Harvard University, and in 2014 she published her first book, Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local—and Helped Save an American Town. The book became a bestseller.

She published a second book in 2016: Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South. Her third book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America, came out in 2018.

Macy has written essays and op-eds for the New York Times as well as for magazines, radio and online journals. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/5/2018)

Book Reviews
Macy's strengths as a reporter are on full display when she talks to people, gaining the trust of chastened users, grieving families, exhausted medical workers and even a convicted heroin dealer…Macy captures an Appalachian landscape in a state of emergency and in the grip of disillusionment.
Jennifer Szalai - New York Times

[A] harrowing, deeply compassionate dispatch from the heart of a national emergency. [Dopesick]…is a masterwork of narrative journalism, interlacing stories of communities in crisis with dark histories of corporate greed and regulatory indifference…In a poignant early scene…a mother at the grave of her 19-year-old son…wants to know "how Jesse went from being a high school football hunk and burly construction worker to a heroin-overdose statistic, slumped on someone else's bathroom floor." That question—and its larger implications—becomes an engine for the entire investigation, driving it forward with plain-spoken moral force…Taken as a whole…this gripping book is a feat of reporting, research and synthesis.
Jessica Bruder - New York Times Book Review

(Starred review) [A] hard and heartbreaking look at the cradle of the opioid addiction crisis, the Appalachian region.… Macy’s forceful and comprehensive overview makes clear the scale and complexity of America’s opioid crisis.
Publishers Weekly

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. —Richard Maxwell, Porter Adventist Hosp. Lib., Denver
Library Journal

(Starred review) Macy’s years of following the issue have earned her remarkable access to those suffering from opioid-addiction disorder…. Hers is a crucial and many-faceted look at a still-unfolding national crisis, making this a timely and necessary read.

(Starred review) Harrowing travels through the land of the hypermedicated, courtesy of hopelessness, poverty, and large pharmaceutical companies.… An urgent, eye-opening look at a problem that promises to grow much worse in the face of inaction and indifference.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for DOPESICK … then take off on your own:

1. The thrust of Beth Macy's exposition on the nation's opioid crisis is her belief that it didn't have to happen: it was a human-made disaster. What according to Macy is responsible for creating the epidemic. Talk, too, about why it has never been fully addressed by the country-at-large.

2. Macy shines a hard light in particular on Perdue Pharma. Why does she take aim at the company? Talk about the sales incentives and marketing tactics Perdue used to sell Oxycontin.

3. Macy assembles a large cast of real people in her book, people like Kristi Fernandez, Ed Bisch, Lee Nuss, and many, many more. Which story of loss and grief, or fighting in the face of apathy, do you find most inspiring, most wrenching, most admirable. Did you find yourself at times confused trying to keep track of everyone?

4. Turning the discussion to recovery, what did you know before reading Dopesick—and what have you learned since—about the methods and realities of treatment. What are some of the treatment protocols? Which ones are controversial and why?

5. Once users get into treatment, how successful is it? What makes recovery so difficult.

6. Despite the growing alarm of the public, to say nothing of the 10s of 1,000s of deaths, too many users have difficulty finding help. Why is getting into treatment so hard?

7. Does Dopesick end on a note of hope — or on a note of despair? What about you? Are you optimistic … or pessimistic about society's ability to find solutions to the opioid and heroine epidemic?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2020