STARRED REVIEW
August 2018

The damage done

By Beth Macy

Dopesick is no doubt the hardest book that award-winning journalist Beth Macy (Truevine, Factory Man) has written, and it left this reviewer in tears. Macy spent six years following families affected by the opioid epidemic in and around her adopted hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, and she begins by noting that several interviewees died before this book was published. It’s a heart-wrenching and thorough treatise on the national crisis that everyone knows about, but few deeply understand.

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BookPage Top Pick in Nonfiction, August 2018

Dopesick is no doubt the hardest book that award-winning journalist Beth Macy (Truevine, Factory Man) has written, and it left this reviewer in tears. Macy spent six years following families affected by the opioid epidemic in and around her adopted hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, and she begins by noting that several interviewees died before she had time to transribe her interview notes. It’s a heart-wrenching and thorough treatise on the national crisis that everyone knows about, but few deeply understand.

Macy addresses a wealth of complex issues in her engaging, spitfire prose, such as the difficulties of rehab and disagreements about the benefits of 12-step programs versus medication-assisted treatment. Macy is a masterful storyteller, and Dopesick is full of unforgettable stories, including those of policemen, caregivers, prosecutors and a dope dealer named Ronnie Jones.

Macy traces the origins of the crisis, which was perpetuated by Purdue Pharma, a company owned by one of the richest families in America. Purdue went from “selling earwax remover and laxatives to the most lucrative drug in the world”—prescription opioids they claimed were not addictive. As one Virginia lawyer aptly notes, “the victims were getting jail time instead of the people who caused it.”

Dopesick is dedicated to the memory of 10 opioid victims. Their stories and those of their surviving families form the heart of this book. There’s Jesse Bolstridge, a 19-year-old high school football star, and “blond and breezy” 21-year-old Scott Roth, who “looked like one of the Backstreet Boys.” Macy herself wasn’t immune to the heartache, admitting that there “were times that journalistic boundaries blurred,” especially when it came to the lively and likable young mother Tess Henry, whom Macy interviewed during drives to Henry’s Narcotics Anonymous meetings for several months.

There are no easy fixes, of course. Macy writes, “America’s approach to its opioid problem is to rely on Battle of Dunkirk strategies—leaving the fight to well-meaning citizens, in their fishing vessels and private boats—when what’s really needed to win the war is a full-on Normandy Invasion.” It’s indeed time to storm the beaches, and Dopesick is a moving, must-read analysis of a national crisis.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of BookPage and edited online for clarity. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Dopesick

Dopesick

By Beth Macy
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316551243

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