“My goal with this book was not to just show you how we got here and what it’s going to take to get out of it but also to inspire people to care,” says author Beth Macy.
Journalist Beth Macy set out with a mission: to address the opioid epidemic from every possible angle.
In her new book, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America, she does that through examining the opioid epidemic from the very beginning to its current state.
According to NPR, Macy begins the book by detailing the story of Jesse, a 19-year-old whose struggles began with pills and ended with heroin. Jesse is one of the many lives taken at the hands of the opioid crisis.
“He was one of these rambunctious kids who rarely napped,” Macy told NPR. “As a little boy, he would fall asleep with toys still in his hands. And early on, they put him on ADHD medication. He also had some football and snowboarding injuries when he was 15 and 16 and was prescribed opioid painkillers then.
“His mother isn’t exactly sure at what point he became hooked, at what point he realized he was dope sick. But he knew he could trade his ADHD medicine for the opioid pills. And one thing led to another. When the pills got harder to get because of doctors cracking down on prescribing, that’s when the heroin started coming in.”
Initially, Macy tells CBS, Jesse’s mother was unaware of the depths her son’s use had gone to.
“She said something else that I heard a lot, which is ‘I thought it was just pills,’ and it had progressed to heroin unbeknownst to her, and he never missed a day at work,” Macy told CBS.
As journalists do, Macy comes at the opioid epidemic from all angles. Her book also details her conversations with a drug dealer named Ronnie Jones, who “ran one of the largest heroin rings in the mid-Atlantic region,” according to NPR.
Jones had tried a few times to recreate his life after spending time in jail, but with little luck.
“Ronnie’s story illustrates how little we do for felons trying to re-enter our society. You know, we don’t make it easy for them to get jobs,” Macy told NPR. “They often come out, and they owe lots of fines. And he tries to go legit. And he ends up—you know, he starts out selling weed again, which he had been selling before. But meanwhile, since he’s been in prison, this opioid thing has exploded. And somebody tells him in the break room of George’s Chicken, hey, man, if you want to make the real money, you need to be bringing heroin in.”
Also in her book, Macy examines the role that Purdue Pharma (the manufacturer of OxyContin) has played in the epidemic. She states that when Purdue introduced OxyContin, it was marketed as being more safe than other painkillers because of its 12-hour time release mechanism.
For the past three years, Macy says, she has been following Google alerts for articles pertaining to the opioid crisis. However, she says, none of them addressed every angle of the crisis as she hoped to.
“Each of them only deal with a little piece of something going on right now,” she tells NPR. “And my goal with this book was not to just show you how we got here and what it’s going to take to get out of it, but also to inspire people to care. And I really hope that that’s what I’ve done.”