A remarkably thorough and always sensible study.

THE UNITED STATES OF OPIOIDS

A PRESCRIPTION FOR LIBERATING A NATION IN PAIN

Health care attorney Nelson (From ObamaCare to TrumpCare, 2017) provides an in-depth historical and analytical overview of the opioid crisis in America and suggests wide-ranging solutions. 

For decades, the United States has been ravaged by opioid addiction—a problem that’s escalated to epidemic proportions. Nelson traces its historical arc from the late 19th century through the passage of significant legislation, such as the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act in 1914, and the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973. The author goes on to present a synoptic account of the problem’s growth in the 1990s, when OxyContin and fentanyl became the most popular opioids, and how inadequate responses from law enforcement, physicians, and the pharmacological industry only exacerbated the crisis. The author asserts that a new emphasis on the treatment of pain, dubbed the “fifth vital sign,” contributed to systemic failures into the present day, as did the insurance industry’s preference for cheaper (though more addictive) drugs and a woeful lack of knowledge and training on the parts of physicians. Nelson also lays blame on what he sees as an overall moral diminishment in America: “We cannot fully address the opioid crisis without seeking to understand this broader crisis of human suffering—the byproduct of a culture of chronic stress, trauma, and increasing isolation as a result of technology and the erosion of social support in our communities.” The author insightfully articulates a plan of reform—“seven pillars” of public health that include establishing outreach and prevention programs, providing more access to addiction treatment, and developing stronger law enforcement responses to the opioid black market. Nelson has a quarter-century of experience as a health care lawyer, and his extraordinary expertise in on full display here. Over the course of his book, he refreshingly furnishes a kaleidoscopic account of the many causes of the opioid crisis rather than launching a political jeremiad that demonizes a particular group. Along the way, he consistently delves into complex matters with sensitivity. This tendency is particularly evident in his discussion of the virtues and vices of cannabis. 

A remarkably thorough and always sensible study.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946633-32-3

Page Count: 347

Publisher: ForbesBooks

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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