Beth Macy's 2018 book, Dopesick, tells the devastating and often tragic story of the impact of a new generation of opioid drugs on those who became addicted or died of an overdose and the way it affected the lives of the families, friends, and communities of its victims.
For much of the book, Macy focuses on the opioid which has done the most widespread damage, OxyContin, and the company which produced it, Purdue Pharma. Beginning in 1996, the company launched a $4 billion promotional campaign for what they described as a miracle drug, featuring lavish incentives for its sales reps such as large cash rewards and luxury vacations. Hospitals and doctor's offices across the US were soon awash in OxyContin.
Before long, a wide array of ordinary people without previous drug issues who had been given an OxyContin prescription for the pain management of routine medical conditions or procedures found themselves addicted to the drug. What had changed? Along with its reps, Purdue Pharma had also wined and dined doctors and plied them with gifts to help persuade them to not only prescribe OxyContin, but to convince them to do so for low-level complaints such as arthritis and back-aches, as well as the most intense cancer pain. Many of these people were from middle-class suburbs or blue-collar rural areas where drug addiction was considered to be a problem of urban minorities. Thus, communities were often slow to respond to the epidemic appearing in their own backyards.
And, of course, recreational drug users quickly found a way to wring a higher high from the new drug. One of the most heavily touted features of OxyContin was its delayed-action feature, which spread its pain-killing efficacy over twelve hours. But partying users simply needed to scrape off the outer coating which created the delay to have a ball of Oxycodone, which, when crushed and snorted or mainlined, had the power of uncut heroin.
Although Macy outlines the national scope of the opioid plague, which led to 72,000 deaths in 2017, many of her tragic tales come from the Roanoke, Virginia-based reporter's own area. Her endless list of lives needlessly lost—including college-bound students, star...
(The entire section is 527 words.)