Summary from Goodreads:
A comprehensive portrait of a uniquely American epidemic–devastating in its findings and damning in its conclusions
The opioid epidemic has been described as “one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine.” But calling it a mistake is a generous rewriting of the history of greed, corruption, and indifference that pushed the US into consuming more than 80 percent of the world’s opioid painkillers.
Journeying through lives and communities wrecked by the epidemic, Chris McGreal reveals not only how Big Pharma hooked Americans on powerfully addictive drugs, but the corrupting of medicine and public institutions that let the opioid makers get away with it.
The starting point for McGreal’s deeply reported investigation is the miners promised that opioid painkillers would restore their wrecked bodies, but who became targets of “drug dealers in white coats.”
A few heroic physicians warned of impending disaster. But American Overdose exposes the powerful forces they were up against, including the pharmaceutical industry’s coopting of the Food and Drug Administration and Congress in the drive to push painkillers–resulting in the resurgence of heroin cartels in the American heartland. McGreal tells the story, in terms both broad and intimate, of people hit by a catastrophe they never saw coming. Years in the making, its ruinous consequences will stretch years into the future.
I haven’t read Dreamland or Dopesick yet (they’re on the TBR, I swear) but my first dive into books about the opioid crisis made me Very Angry. Like, gnaw-my-arm-off levels of frustration akin to reading Bad Blood angry.
The actual lack of empathy and compassion of not only Big Pharma representatives, lobbyists, and politicians, but the physicians and other healthcare workers….it is appalling. All the systems that are supposed to prevent problems like this failed us because Capitalism and Political Lobbying (like, WTF, do people not understand about Conflict of Interest???). Also, there was/is an extremely concerning disregard of actual science by scientists and physicians. “Oh, legitimate pain is a barrier to addiction” – did they not actually take biochemistry? None of these people should be allowed to practice science or medicine again.
The sad thing is that we really do lack actual, non-subjective methods of measuring pain and further research into how the body processes pain signals. Getting good research into those areas will help develop non-opioid treatment methods. But people would rather throw a pill at it instead of try something more labor-intensive like extended physical therapy or massage. Even if new treatments are developed it will be too late for tens of thousands of people who got hooked on opioids or died from overdoses or from taking tainted opioids.
McGreal also touched upon the privilege granted to those rural, white, blue-collar workers with legitimate pain caught up in the money-making schemes of unscrupulous, greedy “practitioners” and now addicted to powerful narcotics versus the hard-line taken by law enforcement regarding the crack cocaine epidemic affecting people of color in urban areas during the 1980s (who probably also had legitimate pain issues and little access to medication or ongoing quality medical care). He didn’t delve too deeply into racism or the disparities but did point them out to make plain the sympathy shown to one group and not the other.
A definite recommend for everyone.
Dear FTC: I borrowed a copy of this book from my store.