DOPESICK by Beth Macy
Kirkus Star


Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America
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Harrowing travels through the land of the hypermedicated, courtesy of hopelessness, poverty, and large pharmaceutical companies.

A huge number of Americans, many of them poor rural whites, have died in the last couple of decades of what one Princeton researcher has called “diseases of despair,” including alcoholism, suicide, and drug overdoses caused by the hopeless sense that there’s a lack of anything better to do. Roanoke-based investigative journalist Macy (Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South, 2016, etc.) locates one key killer—the opioid epidemic—in the heart of Appalachia and other out-of-the-way places dependent on outmoded industries, bypassed economically and culturally, and without any political power to speak of, “hollows and towns and fishing villages where the nearest rehab facility was likely to be hours from home.” Prisons are much closer. Macy’s purview centers on the I-81 corridor that runs along the Appalachians from eastern Tennessee north, where opioid abuse first rose to epidemic levels. She establishes a bleak pattern of high school football stars and good students who are caught in a spiral: They suffer some pain, receive prescriptions for powerful medications thanks to a pharmaceutical industry with powerful lobbying and sales arms (“If a doctor was already prescribing lots of Percocet and Vicodin, a rep was sent out to deliver a pitch about OxyContin’s potency and longer-lasting action”), and often wind up dead or in jail, broke and broken by a system that is easy to game. Interestingly, Macy adds, “almost to a person, the addicted twentysomethings I met had taken attention-deficit medication as children.” Following her survey of the devastation wrought in the coal and Rust belts, the author concludes with a call to arms for a “New Deal for the Drug Addicted,” a constituency that it’s all too easy to write off even as their number climbs.

An urgent, eye-opening look at a problem that promises to grow much worse in the face of inaction and indifference.

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-316-55124-3
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2018


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Kirkus Interview
Beth Macy
author of FACTORY MAN
December 9, 2014

The Bassett Furniture Company was once the world's biggest wood furniture manufacturer. Run by the same powerful Virginia family for generations, it was also the center of life in Bassett, Virginia. But beginning in the 1980s, the first waves of Asian competition hit, and ultimately Bassett was forced to send its production overseas. In Factory Man, Beth Macy details John Bassett’s epic struggle to keep his company in business amid unfair overseas business practices that forced many U.S. manufacturers to move their factories abroad. A brash, patriotic charmer fond of quoting George Patton. The author’s brightly written, richly detailed narrative not only illuminates globalization and the issue of offshoring, but succeeds brilliantly in conveying the human costs borne by low-income people displaced from a way of life. We like Factory Man so much, we named it to our list of Best Nonfiction Books of 2014. We talk to Macy this week on Kirkus TV. View video >


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