“Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” by Beth Macy

It’s the title that grabbed my attention, but I decided to read it after listening to an interview with Beth Macy on Longform Podcast in which she discusses working on this book and one of her previous books, Factory Man. Wanting something to listen to while at work, I took a gamble and decided to try the audiobook version of Dopesick.

My experience with audiobooks is hit or miss. It’s hard for me to pay attention to what’s being said much less recall what I heard. But this topic so fascinates me because it’s an issue I see in my community that I paid close attention to the narration. Plus, Beth Macy narrates the book herself and her slow, even tone helped to prevent my attention from swaying too often.


Nonfiction – politics, history, health, current affairs



Goodreads summary:

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. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

I don’t know how to begin with this one. I like to point out specifics, such as quoted passages from the text, and dig deep in my review when I discuss a nonfiction book on here, but it’s hard to do so when I’ve listened to an audiobook. I’m not too familiar with the bookmark feature in the Overdrive audiobook app, and I was unable to jot down the passages that stood out to me, as I did when reading Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. But that’s the only drawback of my reading experience with Dopesick. Overall, it was a good read and I’m glad to have listened to.

It’s a book I highly recommend since its topic – the opioid crisis – is a timely one. Many individuals and communities have been affected by it. In Dopesick, Macy gives us not only a brief history about the use of opioids, but also discusses how the opioid crisis began and the people who are working to help those affected by it. She also shares the stories of those affected by it – such as former addicts and family members of former addicts.

The opioid crisis began with over prescription of the painkiller OxyContin, which was introduced to doctors in 1996 by Purdue Pharma. Purdue Pharma took an aggressive approach to market it’s drug to doctors, who were often courted by the company. When Purdue Pharma received reports that their drug is highly addictive, the company disregarded them and continued its aggressive marketing.

The more I read, the more obvious it became that Purdue Pharma was driven by greed for the profit it made on its drug. It made me both angry and sad that the company could knowingly continue to sell its drug despite its drastic effect on patients. I became even more upset when I learned from Dopesick that Purdue Pharma is owned by the Sackler family.

I know of the family because of the museums I visit in D.C. The Freer and Sackler Gallery is one of my favorites because of its collection of Asian art, plus I think it’s cool that one can walk below ground from the Freer and Sackler Gallery to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. But reading about the Sackler family’s connection to the opioid crisis, that their company continued pushing its drug though it is harmful to people, put a sour taste in my mouth about ever visiting that museum again, or any other museums or places I know they own. That distaste became a dislike when I read in a recent NPR article that, allegedly, a Sackler family member who serves on Purdue Pharma’s board pitched a plan that would enable the company to further profit off the opioid crisis it started. It’s disgusting.

There’s much more that Macy discusses in her book, so I urge you to read it to understand this current issue America faces. I haven’t done a great job of reviewing the book here, unfortunately, but it’s an important book that should be read by all.

Overall: ★★★★★

Important. Timely. Well-written. I highly recommend it.

It’s my first 5-star read of the year.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

16 thoughts on ““Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” by Beth Macy

  1. I had to skim your review a little bit, only because I actually have this sitting at the library right now. Really glad you ended up enjoying it! I almost went for audio, but I don’t do as well with nonfiction audio. It’s hard for me to remember things like what you said. 😉


    1. Well this is a good audio book to listen to if you’re not used to them. The only drawback is that you might want to make note of some facts mentioned and might find it difficult to do so if transcribing and such isn’t your thing. But I’m glad you have it on hold on your library. It’s worth the read.

      Liked by 1 person

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