To an opioid user, either on “legal” OxyContin or heroin, the goal is to avoid the debilitating withdrawal of being Dopesick. Most have only two options, steal or sell the same drugs to other, usually new, users to finance their own habit.
Moving from rural Virginia in 1996 to suburbs and cities by the mid-2000s, the opioid crisis is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. More than 300,000 have died in the past 15 years and it is projected that the same number will die in the next five years.
This is a story of how doctors tried, and mostly failed, to alert the producer, the government, and finally the media to the very real dangers of OxyContin. But corporate and physician greed overrode the warnings. After the government did begin to notice the epidemic and strengthen the usage guidelines, users turned to illegal heroin to avoid the Dopesick caused by OxyContin withdrawal.
Dopesick has valuable information for anyone who has friends or relatives with an opioid problem. However, it doesn’t have many solutions. It does have one clear warning:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”—George Santayana
This same pattern of an overuse of a miracle drug becoming a scourge on the populace was first seen in 1864. Returning soldiers from the Civil War were prescribed morphine, which led to the same addiction and other social consequences as the OxyContin crisis. Hopefully, it will not take all the current addicts’ deaths to move past the OxyContin epidemic as that was the way the Civil War era issue was resolved. 3 stars.
Thanks to the Little, Brown and Company and NetGalley for an advanced copy.