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Publisher's 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 best-selling author and journalist who has lived through it.

In this masterful work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America's 20-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 best-selling 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.

"Everyone should read Beth Macy's story of the American opioid epidemic." (Professor Anne C. Case, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University and Sir Angus Deaton, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics)

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2018 Beth Macy (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"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." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)

"Dopesick will make you shudder with rage and weep with sympathy. Beth Macy's empathy and fearless reporting reaches beyond the headlines to tell the stories of how real people have been left to cope with the fallout of corporate greed, and the willful blindnesses of businesses and the government. Macy again shows why she's one of America's best non-fiction writers" (Brian Alexander, author of Glass House)

"Macy potently mixes statistics and hard data with tragic stories of individual sufferers, as well as those who love and attempt to treat them.... Macy's forceful and comprehensive overview makes clear the scale and complexity of America's opioid crisis." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

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Amazingly sad scary and informative.

I am one of those people who is caught in the middle. I need pain control. Do not abuse. Am extremely cautious and had meds cut because of others abuse this book showed the side I did not see. Have to say thank you for opening my eyes

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Front line worker

As an emergency room nurse who sees the daily prescriptions for narcotics, the chronic pain patients, the addicted to narcotics patients, and the overdose patients...this is a book I hope reaches the general masses.

31 of 33 people found this review helpful

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Thorough, incisive, compassionate

I began this book with some skepticism. I had just completed an intense study of books on drugs and addiction in preparation for leading a group at my church this fall, having read Mate, Quinones, Hari, Szalavitz, Onkret, Hart, and others, and I wondered if this book would be merely a rehash of those works, or worse, contradictory. I’m glad I decided to add this book to my list of resources. Dope Sick is up to date, with events and developments right up to 2018, including attitudes of the Trump administration. The author drives home the indispensable place harm reduction must have in the quest for solutions. The story builds to an emotional conclusion that left me deeply moved. I will be enthusiastically recommending this book as background reading to my study group.

29 of 31 people found this review helpful

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Extraordinarily useful for a parent of an addict.

As the parent of an adult addict I find myself in a constant search for how and why this mess started. When you go through years of struggle trying to save the life of your child knowing damn well that you'll likely fail, you want answers. I've found myself, more and more, searching out books that give history rather than books that I think will help. I can't save my child, but I want to know what we're going to do, as a country, to prevent this from spreading.

I applaud and want to thank the author for all her hard work. I think book should be a staple learning tool in high school, of not late middle school.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A must read

This book is incredibly thorough and multifaceted. As far as I can tell, the author left no stone unturned and no point of view unconsidered. Really remarkable and makes the listener deeply sad for the state of our country and relationship to the pharmaceutical industry.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Eye opening. Jaw dropping. Heart breaking. Game changing.

First a caveat. Beth Macy is a good friend of my family and me. I’m confident I would feel the same way about this book if I’d never met her.

I grew up in Wise County, VA, and have lived in Roanoke for 28 years now. Both of these communities factor enormously in the gripping, gritty reporting Macy does here. She’s always a brilliant story reteller, somehow able to get deeper into lives than most of us would be brave enough to consider. Her previous books — Factory Man and Truevine — prove this.

Dopesick is far deeper, rawer and more personal than I’m usually comfortable with. It has to be. The opioid and heroin crises that decimated my home towns came out of nowhere, like a tornado that has already razed the trailer park, yet is just now starting to make a sound. The pictures Dopesick paints are bleak and gray and grainy. If you’re a parent of a young person, you will question every conversation you ever had with your kids, every prescription med you made them swallow. And you will wonder how the hell we’ll ever get past this national emergency. You’ll cling to your people. You’ll lose some sleep. You’ll probably even tear up.

But mostly you’ll be grateful that people like Macy are telling this story. You’ll be amazed at how open some people are about their broken lives. If we’re going to defeat this monster, the battle surely starts here.

I know this sounds like hyperbole. It’s not. You’ll see.

A note about the audiobook. It’s read by the author. This can be a turnoff for some listeners. It’s not in this case. Beth’s is the voice you want breaking this news to you.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Sarah
  • Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • 08-27-18

Useful, but recommend Dreamland instead

Dopesick is good, interesting, and compelling. It is very focused on big pharma and individual stories, however. For a more comprehensive, investigative journalistic account, I recommend Dreamland, by Sam Quinones. Quinones not only tells the whole story of falsely-interpreted medical studies that led to the "statistics" used by big pharma to say that opiods weren't addictive; he also traces the production of heroin to Mexican villages and examines its distribution in the United States.
Beth Macy's book is getting a lot of press right now, and it's worthy of the press, but Sam Quinones published his book at the outset of this epidemic and gives a far more in-depth report of its complete takeover. I'm sorry he hasn't received as much attention for his good work.

Additionally, Beth Macy may be a good writer, but she is a terrible and distracting narrator. Stumbling over words, she sounds like an unrehearsed reader in church trying to read a Biblical passage with particularly unpronounceable family and place names.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Insightful and Sad

This book has a lot of information about a specific geographic area in Appalachia and the opioid epidemic. It doesn’t focus on North Carolina or Georgia-which are major thoroughfares to Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. I found that disappointing. The statical values presented were fascinating and startling.
While the book provides insight and depicts the sadness of families impacted by opioids, it also shares the political undertones of how America slowly and silently reached this manic epidemic. Learning about the company that created Oxycodone and their lack of responsibility to the magnitude of tragedies just pissed me off.

This book should be read and discussed with kids in middle school. It is a book about choices and consequences. It’s impactful with a powerful message.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Interesting and informative

Really enjoyed this book. Learned a lot new and learned more about stuff I already knew. Can’t ask for much more than that. Thanks!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Surpasses my greatest expectations

While I considered myself a conscious person... this book proved me to be naive. Naive about big pharma, the susceptibility of young people, levels of addiction, symptoms of dope sickness, parental loyalty and enabling and hopelessness. This is a masterful piece

1 of 1 people found this review helpful