In Dopesick, Beth Macy takes readers 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.
...a masterwork of narrative journalism, interlacing stories of communities in crisis with dark histories of corporate greed and regulatory indifference ... The further Macy wades into the wreckage of addiction, the more damning her indictment becomes ... Macy introduces so many remarkable people that, midway through Dopesick, readers may find it challenging to keep track of them. (Imagine the writer as the literary equivalent of a triage doctor, with more patients to stabilize than she can linger on.) Taken as a whole, however, this gripping book is a feat of reporting, research and synthesis.
This exhaustively reported book includes many heartbreaking examples of young lives lost to drugs, sometimes so suddenly that parents had been unaware of the problem, sometimes after repeated efforts to help a child get clean in rehabilitation facilities or treatment programs. Although Macy’s stories are set in Virginia, they could happen anywhere in the United States. Most compelling are the characters she was able to follow over time ... Tess’s struggles to stay off drugs and become a fit mother provide a moving counterpoint to Macy’s discussion of the controversies that roil our national debate over addiction treatment.
Dopesick touches on these political developments, but its emphasis lies elsewhere. Macy’s strengths as a reporter are on full display when she talks to people, gaining the trust of chastened users, grieving families, exhausted medical workers and even a convicted heroin dealer ... There’s a great deal in Dopesick that’s incredibly bleak ... Macy suggests [ending America's opioid crisis] will require a profound transformation of how we understand who we are in relation to one another.