Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America


by Beth Macy


“Dopesick is not about the drugs. It’s a book about kids and moms and neighbors and the people who try to save them. It’s about shame and stigma and desperation. It’s about bad policy, greed and corruption.” — Senator Tim Kaine


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.


Beth Macy is a journalist who writes about outsiders and underdogs. Her writing has won more than a dozen national journalism awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard and the 2013 J. Anthony Lukas Word-in-Progress award for “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town,”


Misty Hawkins