The daring and honest PILL HEAD digs far deeper than the average memoir about addiction. With precision and uncommon empathy, Joshua Lyon exposes the facts about painkillers and those who abuse them; he also fearlessly reveals his own intense, often frightening story. PILL HEAD is a terrific book.
For a Jane magazine article, Lyon bought Vicodin illegally over the Internet. After devouring the painkillers he immediately ordered more, his journalistic research turning into a full-fledged addiction. Lyon had company in his opiate abuse-more than 33 million Americans have used prescription painkillers nonmedically, he notes. The seven million currently abusing Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, et al., are more than those who use cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy and meth combined. As Lyon researched his book-and fed his continuing addiction-he explored the latest permutation of the American drug culture, one that has snared everyone from doctors and schoolkids to grandmothers on social security. Lyon interpolates memoir segments between interviews with experts and profiles of other abusers. The fact that he also strongly advocates certain policy and treatment strategies adds another element to an already broad approach. The resulting swirl of characters, story lines and perspectives at first makes it difficult to find a narrative thread. Yet Lyon writes powerfully about his own experiences as a young, troubled gay man in New York City, and it's this human story that stays with the reader. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School—As an "assignment" for a magazine, Lyon decided to see how easy it would be to order prescription pills through the Internet, where these offers show up in everyone's spam email daily. He discovered that it's pretty easy to get them, and even easier to become addicted to them. But this isn't just another addiction memoir, although Lyon does weave his own experiences into each chapter. He also introduces a few other people, such as Heather, a new bride who works for a high-level line of cosmetics/body products, and who starts self-medicating for panic attacks and eventually sinks to stealing prescription pads. Each chapter shows Lyon's journalistic background, and each chapter reads like a self-contained magazine article, with interviews and facts and statistics to back up the experiences that Lyon and his fellow addicts are experiencing. While their lives may seem glamorous (jobs at glossy magazines and in the fashion industry), the effects of their addiction are decidedly not, from dealing with shady characters to the loss of these glamorous jobs and the rapid end of the symptom of constipation. The message of the book is more than "Just Say No," which Lyon has little tolerance for—it's "Just See Why Not."—Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD
The painful evolution of a gay New York City drug addict, from first encounter to detox. Though journalist Lyon concedes that an assignment for Jane magazine in the summer of 2003 first introduced him to the wonders of painkillers, he'd been a frequent drug user and self-confessed "expert at escapism" since his early teens. But his love affair with Vicodin eventually trumped former dalliances with marijuana, LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol. There were no apparent side effects, he writes, and the painkiller allowed him to feel in control and "fantastic, even when the high was over." It also created an atmosphere of "zero social anxiety" in public situations, which allowed Lyon to meet and date handsome fashion stylist Everett-though their crash-and-burn relationship faltered due to accusations of infidelity and a harrowing HIV scare. The author alternates his personal history with valuable information on the inherent problems of Internet pharmacies and the plight of narcotics-prescribing physicians. Noting that seven million Americans are currently abusing painkillers, Lyon traces the lives of addicts like Caleb, an oxycontin devotee; cancer-survivor and fellow Vicodin-lover Alison; "suburban ennui" victim Jared; prescription-pad thief Heather; and Lyon's best friend Emily, who initially began her descent into pill-popping in order to cope with her father's death and with whom the author shares an "affiliation with contradiction and morbidity." After an extended period of job-juggling and a new boyfriend, a debilitating mystery pain landed the author in the hospital, and the road to rehab seemed inevitable. Lyon drives home the relentlessness of his addiction when admitting earlyon that Vicodin alone cured "the physical pain of simply being alive." His long road to recovery is just beginning when this searing chronicle concludes. As real as it gets. Agent: Erin Hosier/Dunow, Carlson & Lerner
"Joshua Lyon preferred opiates, America's fastest growing addiction, and in this enlightening and harrowing pill by pill tour, he maps the secret trades that are taking place in every workplace, gym, bar, and neighborhood. With Pill Head, he demonstrates a crafty addict's ability to rationalize illicit pleasure, and a shrewd journalist's sense to doubt the long-term prospects of artificial narcotic happiness."
"Pill Head is the perfect combination of informative and deeply personal; alarming and even sad. I wanted to hug Joshua Lyon after reading this. Anyone who has ever taken prescription medication recreationally should read this book. It's an eye-opener and it's not pretty, and it will speak to every single person who picks it up."
From the Publisher
"Joshua Lyon preferred opiates, America's fastest growing addiction, and in this enlightening and harrowing pill by pill tour, he maps the secret trades that are taking place in every workplace, gym, bar, and neighborhood. With Pill Head, he demonstrates a crafty addict's ability to rationalize illicit pleasure, and a shrewd journalist's sense to doubt the long-term prospects of artificial narcotic happiness."Michael Stein, author of The Addict: One Patient, One Doctor, One Year"
Pill Head is the perfect combination of informative and deeply personal; alarming and even sad. I wanted to hug Joshua Lyon after reading this. Anyone who has ever taken prescription medication recreationally should read this book. It's an eye-opener and it's not pretty, and it will speak to every single person who picks it up."Lesley Arfin, author of Dear Diary