Kirkus Star


How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction
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A chilling update on the most drug-ravaged sectors of North America.

Once journalist Lupick details the dire state of drug addiction across the country, the main focus of the book becomes one of motivation, humanitarianism, and perseverance on the part of a group of inner-city activists in Vancouver’s skid row section, Downtown Eastside. The author describes this area as destitute and rife with single room–occupancy hotels and countless drug pushers and addicts. In moving profiles, he chronicles the area’s downslide since the early 1990s. The drug epidemic’s stronghold on this particular Vancouver sector is intensified but also humanized by the stories of the well-organized efforts of the many activists who have provided counseling, compassionate assistance, and radical solutions through the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, which was founded in 1998. The roadblocks were monumental, including political invisibility, controversies surrounding supervised injection sites and overdose prevention programs, and efforts to destigmatize the addicts and their behaviors. Most inspiring are the stories of those rallying for the rights of users and advocating for interventional drug and harm reduction programs with adequate follow-up measures. Lupick also checks in with several other major American cities—Boston, Seattle, Miami, San Francisco, Toledo—to show their progress on combating the drug-abuse epidemics. The author highlights many unconventional approaches to fighting the onslaught of drug deaths, how these singular techniques are working, and what needs refinement to improve the odds. In addition to chronicling the desperation of addicts and how entire neighborhoods can buckle beneath the weight of drug dependency, Lupick also provides significant insight into the movement to destigmatize the opioid abuse epidemic with efforts to reclassify it as a health problem and to combat it with methods of harm reduction rather than criminal policing. He brings the reality of the perennial war on drugs into vivid focus and introduces an impressive group of activists confronting this “ongoing struggle” with steely determination and compassion.

An intense, riveting report on a public health crisis and a network of heroes on the front lines.

Pub Date: June 5th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-55152-712-3
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2018


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