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THE UNITED STATES OF OPIOIDS

A PRESCRIPTION FOR LIBERATING A NATION IN PAIN

A remarkably thorough and always sensible study.

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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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MASTERY

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

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

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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