After her 20-year-old brother, Pat, died from a heroin overdose, Daly gave up her prestigious job as a legal reporter to spend five years looking for an answer to the epidemic spread of addiction among children and young adults.
Following Pat’s death, the author gained access to his journal and learned more about his path to destruction. Like many young addicts, his downfall began early with marijuana and alcohol. Then, he moved on to prescription pain medications and, eventually, heroin. “[I]n 2011, 4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older reported using heroin at least once in their lives,” writes Daly, “and [like Pat], nearly half of the young IV heroin users reported that they abused prescription opioids first.” Pain medications are so freely prescribed that they are an easily available, cheap high for teenagers. A few pills per day rapidly escalates to 30 or more, at an unsustainable cost. Addiction follows, and the life of a junkie frequently ends in death within a few years. The rate of recidivism after release from rehabilitation programs is high; even near misses from overdosing and the deaths of friends are insufficient deterrents. As the author learned from her brother's diary, he wasn't having fun, “just partying, being a dumb kid, making bad choices. He was truly an addict.” Daly faces the painful realization that she had failed him by deluding herself that he was simply going through a phase. In 2009, the author launched a blog, Oxy Watchdog, which put her in touch with individuals whose lives had been touched by addiction: users and their families, law enforcement officers, social workers and politicians. The author also provides a timeline of “America’s Epidemic of Prescription Painkiller and Heroin Abuse,” beginning with Bayer’s release of heroin as cough suppressant in 1898.
This gripping memoir, enhanced by statistics and other stories of addiction, reveals the devastating human cost of failure to face the consequences of the epidemic spread of drug abuse.