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PILL HEAD by Joshua Lyon Kirkus Star


The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict

by Joshua Lyon

Pub Date: July 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4013-2298-4
Publisher: Hyperion

The painful evolution of a gay New York City drug addict, from first encounter to detox.

Though journalist Lyon concedes that an assignment for Jane magazine in the summer of 2003 first introduced him to the wonders of painkillers, he’d been a frequent drug user and self-confessed “expert at escapism” since his early teens. But his love affair with Vicodin eventually trumped former dalliances with marijuana, LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol. There were no apparent side effects, he writes, and the painkiller allowed him to feel in control and “fantastic, even when the high was over.” It also created an atmosphere of “zero social anxiety” in public situations, which allowed Lyon to meet and date handsome fashion stylist Everett—though their crash-and-burn relationship faltered due to accusations of infidelity and a harrowing HIV scare. The author alternates his personal history with valuable information on the inherent problems of Internet pharmacies and the plight of narcotics-prescribing physicians. Noting that seven million Americans are currently abusing painkillers, Lyon traces the lives of addicts like Caleb, an oxycontin devotee; cancer-survivor and fellow Vicodin-lover Alison; “suburban ennui” victim Jared; prescription-pad thief Heather; and Lyon’s best friend Emily, who initially began her descent into pill-popping in order to cope with her father’s death and with whom the author shares an “affiliation with contradiction and morbidity.” After an extended period of job-juggling and a new boyfriend, a debilitating mystery pain landed the author in the hospital, and the road to rehab seemed inevitable. Lyon drives home the relentlessness of his addiction when admitting early on that Vicodin alone cured “the physical pain of simply being alive.” His long road to recovery is just beginning when this searing chronicle concludes.

As real as it gets.