Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict

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Overview

Joshua Lyon was no stranger to substance abuse. By the time he was seventeen, he had already found sanctuary in pot, cocaine, and Ecstasy-just to name a few. Ten years later, while on assignment for Jane magazine, he found himself with a bottle of Vicodin and a decision: dispose of the bottle or give in to his curiosity. He chose the latter and found his perfect drug.

Pill Head is a compelling and honest book in which one man examines his own addiction, while investigating the ...

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Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict

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Overview

Joshua Lyon was no stranger to substance abuse. By the time he was seventeen, he had already found sanctuary in pot, cocaine, and Ecstasy-just to name a few. Ten years later, while on assignment for Jane magazine, he found himself with a bottle of Vicodin and a decision: dispose of the bottle or give in to his curiosity. He chose the latter and found his perfect drug.

Pill Head is a compelling and honest book in which one man examines his own addiction, while investigating the growing epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse among today's Generation Rx. Joshua Lyon uncovers the truth of recreational drug use to provide a story not just of descent, but of determination, a message of encouragement for anyone who is wrestling to overcome, who is looking for the strength to heal.

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Editorial Reviews

Scott Heim
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.
Publishers Weekly

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
Kirkus Reviews
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
Michael Stein
"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."
Lesley Arfin
"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401310226
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 7/13/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Joshua Lyon is a journalist who has worked for several major publications including Interview, Conde Nast Traveler and Jane; he is currently a contributor to New York magazine and Page Six magazine. This is his first book.
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Table of Contents

Prologue xiii

1 The How, the Why, and Let's Get High 1

2 "I Want Total Sensory Deprivation and Backup Drugs" 13

3 "I Meant for You to Take One or Two-Not the Whole Thing!" 25

4 "I Couldn't Imagine Ever Not Doing Them" 43

5 "Depression Hurts" 53

6 "Remember Valley of the Dolls?" 63

7 "It Was the Worst Week of My Life" 73

8 "Are We Being Irresponsible?" 83

9 Heather Hits Rehab 109

10 Fight or Flight 123

11 How to Destroy a Doctor 133

12 Jared's Turn 143

13 Hunting and Shutting Down 149

14 Horror Hospital 177

15 "All of This Foam Came Out of My Son's Mouth" 187

16 Escape to (and in) the Midwest 199

17 Harm Reduction and the Future of Painkiller Abuse 213

18 "Boredom Is God" 221

19 One Year Later 231

20 Onward 241

Epilogue 262

Sources 265

Resources 269

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

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(11)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

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(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2012

    After reading Pill Head by Joshua Lyon it really opened to my ey

    After reading Pill Head by Joshua Lyon it really opened to my eyes to how much our society abuses pharmaceuticals and other drugs. This book is about a gay man living in New York who has an addiction to pain killers and later on has to go to rehab. But not only was he addicted to pain killers so were every single one of his friends and they all end up going through a hard time and end up in rehab. This book shows a lot about an addict’s life and that eventually one day the addict will have to stop whether it’d their choice or not. Even though the book gives a lot of detail on how to buy pharmaceuticals and what it’s like to be high when on them; it gives a great message on how addictive pain killers are and if someone has an addiction to try and help them because they are probably going through something rough and need help. I like how this book went into detail about the different types of drugs and what they do to your body because before reading this book I had no idea on why painkillers are so addictive. I didn’t like how the author talked more about his friend’s stories than his own and I wish he told more as to how he felt after rehab and how pain full going through detox was. I believe if someone is interested in learning about painkillers than they should read this book but if someone who is or was addicted to painkillers shouldn’t read this book because it kind of brags about how good painkillers are and could potentially make someone crave them. Overall I probably wouldn’t recommend this book because it was all about the addict’s life and I was looking for a book based on one addict. This book was still an easy read and had excellent messages and themes in it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 8, 2011

    Fast read

    I enjoyed the book and it was a fast read. I have always been fascinated with addictions and drugs and i thought i was pretty saavy on the subject. I learned alot more through this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2010

    A must read

    Couldn't put this book down for a secind time!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012

    .

    Am i the only person that know plenty of people that take painkillers and DONT spiral out of control and end up in rehab? Maybe its because no one i know can afford the kind of habits desribed in this book. Where are the stories about people that take the same dosage every day, and have been doing so for years? Not everyone who take pills is an addict eating there way through hundreds dollars of meds every couple of days. I'm sick of every single drug story that comes out not mentioning the thousands of people that function just fine, control their intake just fine and manage to lead their lives without turning into crazy drug addled.losers just fine. Where is the book about that? I'm sick of getting lumped into the same catagory as drug addicts when i've been taking the same amount of pain pills for 5 or 6 years. I don't escalate. I don't have health insurance so no dr regulates my dosage. I take control of my life and do that for myslef. I know plenty of folks just like me too. Where are our stories and books? It is infuriating.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 27, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Great and exciting read.

    Joshua Lyon portrayed his own personal trip through drug abuse very descriptively. After the first few pages, the story gets more intense and exciting. You will love and feel for Joshua at the end. I definitely recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2012

    THe Andimal24

    Pill Head the Secret Life of a Pain Killer by: Joshua Lyon

    Pill head is about a young man addicted to Opiates. Opiates are in the form of OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, and Percodan, among others, are America’s fastest growing addiction, according to some experts. In Joshua Lyon’s case, he was addicted to Vicodin. Joshua experimented with drugs such as weed, coke, and acid in high school. Once he got to college, Josh was introduced to Vicodin. It soon became his new fix and seemed to capture Josh like a trap. Josh went into a spiraling downfall and did not know what to do or who to look to for help. When taking Opiates tolerance builds up, meaning the person needs to take more of the pills and more often, just to approximate the high that used to be achieved on much lesser dose or frequency. Josh was consuming too much pills at a high rate, which made him crave them supplementary. I really enjoyed this book because it was graphic, eye opening, and comprehensible about the effects painkillers can have on a person. I believe other people should read this book because it shows how fast a person’s life can change because of addiction. It also shows the dark side of taking a drug so often. Josh claimed he did not like life many of the days and debated taking his own life because of it. I also liked how he explained his recovery process and how terrible it was. Lyon himself admits that he still thinks about taking pills every day. Still, he takes it one day at a time. Moreover, in the end, isn’t that what every person in recovery strives to do? Just today, do what we need to do to remain abstinent. Do not worry about tomorrow or anguish over the past. Just keep moving forward as best we can here in the present. Overall, I gave this book a four because it taught me a lot about pain addiction and it was interesting reading about his struggles and how he had to overcome them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2011

    Should be taken SERIOUS!!!

    As someone who was badly hooked on all manners of painkillers I was so shocked at how accurate the writters description of the high was! Wow... this truly is one of my peers. Having a pinched nerve in my elbow ended up resulting in years of replacement therapy. It was a success from the 1st try but I'm sure I'm one of the lucky few. Read this and pass the word along to anyone who has half a chance of being affected by this epidemic!!!! It's as serious as heroin folks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    totally what should have: moons ago

    How refreshing to hear the truth and not babble!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    College Thesis

    This book felt more like I was reading a college paper than a book. It was very informative, almost too informative. I was more concerned with the personal account of the people involved, rather than the science and history behind pain killers. Maybe that's my problem, but for the most, it just wasn't my favorite book. Oddly enough, it made me want to try pill popping myself... uh oh! :)

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2014

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