Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America
By Beth Macy
Little, Brown and Company, 2018, 376 pp.

addiction: a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects.

dopesick: slang for opiate withdrawal symptoms.

There’s all kinds of addictions out there, including gambling, shopping, eating, exercise, pornography, hoarding/collecting, video gaming, and, yes, even blogging. But some addictions are downright deadly.

We’ve all heard about the dramatic rise of heroin addiction in the U.S. In this book, investigative journalist, Beth Macy, takes a look at heroin abuse from the perspective of a few small towns in the Appalachia region of Virginia and West Virginia.

As the coal mines shut down and the manufacturing jobs in the region were shipped overseas, the unemployed workers of Appalachia increasingly drowned their miseries in opioids, both street heroin and doctor-prescribed Oxycodone.

Macy gives a short history of the medical use of opioids as a painkiller and focuses on pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma’s development of OxyContin in 1995 into a goldmine as well as a nationwide abuse problem. Many people who were prescribed OxyContin for pain became addicted and subsequently “graduated” to street heroin.

Macy follows several heroin addicts from “fix” to criminal activity in order to sustain the habit, to court, to jail/rehab (repeat cycle). Several of the individuals either died from the heroin or were victims of violence experienced while living homeless on the streets. The author crusades throughout the book for MAT (medication-assisted treatment), the use of alternative drugs to help addicts break their addiction cycle, but the use of MAT is controversial.

This was a sad and depressing book to read. Substance abuse and addiction is a dastardly business. I’ve had some experience with friends and family members who were addicted to alcohol. I also had a niece who died eight years ago from a drug overdose at the age of thirty-three.

People need salvation in Jesus Christ and God’s power to overcome all kinds of addictions in this world. However, sometimes even Christians can fall back into addiction. We must walk according to the Spirit and circumspectly lest we become entangled by the snares of this world.

28 thoughts on “Dopesick

  1. Tom, I just want to inform you that your post/list on the two camps, in documentary, American Gospel: Christ Crucified has helped me yesterday in distiguishing those who are defending the Gospel and those who, sadly, sees it differently. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There are so many addiction/medical issues, lack of education and funding facing folks in Appalachia. It is unreal! I have a real heart for those who are suffering in Appalachia. Thanks for sharing this book review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandy! I appreciated the articles about the challenges in Appalachia due to poverty and isolation.
      Here in Western NY the economy is a bit more diversified, but not by much. The area was once very reliant on manufacturing and when those companies left, the the economy went into a sharp decline. Rochester and Buffalo are included in the top-5 poorest cities in the US.

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      1. Yup, the entire eastside of the city of Buffalo is an urban tragedy. Buffalo’s “Polish Town” used to be on the eastside and I made many trips there to see the old sites, but it was like navigating through Baghdad. Rochester’s inner city isn’t as large, but it’s equally decrepit.

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  3. Dropping by quickly with a hi. Your observation about the oppressed becoming the oppressor is very true, we must not forget that even with our national conversation about CRT, race, leftist ideology, etc

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 👋🏼
      Hi my friend! Sorry for the late reply. My wife and I were at the car dealership trying to learn all of our options – being unemployed – because our lease is up in a couple of weeks.
      Oh, yeah. I realize the goal of the CRTers is not just to demand apologies, but to upend society with Christianity as one of the targets.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! Yup, our two options are (A) try to extend the lease for another year, or (B) pay off the residual value of the car. I’m going to try to negotiate with the car company on option A, a much more desirable route than option B.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Talked to Volkswagen on the phone and they agreed to extend the lease for another 6 months. Thanks for your prayers, brother, and God bless you, too!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I noticed this is your second book on drug addiction you read back to back; sad to read even the review of the drug addiction phenomenon. And this book you reviewed show the crisis isn’t just in urban America but Rural America too. I don’t know much of West Virginia but it sounds like its a hard place, with the coal mining, the drinking, the lay off of jobs, the poverty, etc. May the Lord be merciful to the residents in that state

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have OMS (old man syndrome) so I had to check my posts but there’ve been no other books about drug addiction. I think I may have discussed this book with you previously about how difficult it was to read. What misery. Yeah, Appalachia has been a tough area to live for so long. Now coal mining is being shutdown and single-factory towns are devastated by manufacturing moving overseas. This was definitely one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s funny how memory is…forgetting things from yesterday but being able to recall tiny details from long ago. They estimate there are a tiny number of people, around 100 on the planet like Marilu Henner, who can remember great details about just about every single day of their life…the weather, the clothes they wore, what they ate at meals.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a nephew with an alcohol addiction. Domestic abuse has destroyed his marriage, his wife and children. And yet he is being told that he was born with an alcoholic gene and he can’t help the way he is. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Crissy, I’m sorry about your nephew and his family. I agree that there’s a component of personal responsibility in these addictions. Sin is self-destructive and yet we do it anyway. One of my sisters and a sister-in-law are “hoarders” and live by themselves in absolutely filthy circumstances. There’s a degree of mental illness involved, there’s a consensus that no one would choose to live like that if they were mentally “healthy,” but personal choice and responsibility can’t be totally ruled out either.


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