A devastating portrait of the opioid epidemic, a uniquely American and catastrophically lethal tragedy born of Congressional neglect, amplified by corporate greed, and brutally exploited by illegal drug cartels.
The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history; it results in 90 American deaths a day and has eviscerated communities across the country. It is a consequence of a healthcare system run as a business, one that prescribed drugs with unprecedented amounts of oxycodone to patients experiencing everything from toothaches to severe chronic pain. The practice created a culture of addiction in towns and cities from Florida to Maine and throughout Appalachia and the American West.
In American Fix, Chris McGreal outlines the three main stories of the opioid epidemic: first, the negligent policies that allowed the greed and corruption of big pharma to profit off the suffering of their patients and new evidence on the FDA's complicity in the matter; second, the widespread addiction that ravaged American towns and cities; and finally, the even more devastating arrival of the drug cartels who deliberately and catastrophically exploited the market for addiction that has been created.
Through the lives of doctors, addicts, policy-makers, pharmaceutical reps, and family members, McGreal tells two parallel stories: that of the rise of opioids in the healthcare system and the personal stories of those affected on the ground, joined in what a former member of the FDA has called "one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine."
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About the Author
Chris McGreal is a senior writer at the Guardian and former journalist for BBC. He has published several articles on the opioid epidemic in America. He has worked in Johannesburg and Jerusalem, as well as Central America, and now lives with his family in Portland, OR.
Table of Contents
Introduction: An Epidemic Foretold xi
Act I Dealing
Chapter 1 The Undertaker 3
Chapter 2 Junk Science 14
Chapter 3 Pilliamson 29
Chapter 4 The Sales Pitch 39
Chapter 5 What They Knew 49
Chapter 6 Investigation 65
Chapter 7 Vital Sign 79
Act II Hooked
Chapter 8 A Loaded Gun in the Suicide Ward 99
Chapter 9 Paying to Play 114
Chapter 10 Pursuit 132
Chapter 11 The Silence 145
Chapter 12 Pushback 162
Chapter 13 Sounding the Alarm 175
Chapter 14 Kermit 187
Chapter 15 A Free Pass 204
Chapter 16 The End of Days 217
Act III Withdrawal
Chapter 17 The Public Health 231
Chapter 18 Russian Roulette 247
Chapter 19 Dodging Torpedoes 262
Chapter 20 The National Nightmare 269
Chapter 21 Guilt 286
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.5 Stars If you want to be infuriated with pharmaceutical companies, the government, and doctors, then read this book. The blatant way that they ignore or twist data and warnings and succumb to greed is largely the reason there’s an opioid epidemic in America. Those few doctors who stood up to them (and their patients) and pointed out the harm and addictiveness of opioids were quickly dismissed and sometimes had active smear campaigns against them. This book looks largely at the crisis in W. Virginia and takes you pretty much to present.
Thank you to NetGalley and Perseus Books/PublicAffairs for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Chris McGreal's American Overdose is a must-read for anyone concerned with the current opioid crisis in the United States. And who should be concerned? Everyone. Having read another opioid crisis expose, Dopesick by Beth Macy, already this year, I was interested to see what new material McGreal could bring to the table. This book provides more of a structural overview of the topic than Dopesick and then dives into specific pieces to flesh out the narrative.. The investigation is split into three parts, Dealing, Hooked, and Withdrawal. Though the two books understandably share many central characters, they are not repetitive and McGreal's work dovetails perfectly with other research studies already completed on the topic. Overdose is the leading cause of death for people under the age of fifty, McGreal writes. Poor, rural people are not manufacturing these drugs. This crisis is not due to street heroin or cocaine or meth, though people turn there when their prescriptions run out. These drugs are being funneled into the hands of a vulnerable American public through the greed of big pharma and the negligence of the FDA. Doctors have been brought into the fray through money and gifts, with others doctors fighting against their medical brothers and sisters to save patients. Pills have been peddled to Americans as the panacea for every ill and now generations of Americans are growing up thinking that relative pain is a vital sign and pills are magic. We are in a dangerous zone and people are dying daily because of it. McGreal makes a great case that while pain should be taken seriously and is certainly real for many people, opioids are not the answer; just the cause of more pain. He has thoroughly convinced me that pharmaceutical companies should not be allowed to advertise on television. It is a recipe for disaster. Written in an engaging style with thorough research and clear stances, American Overdose is highly recommended.
This book reiterated a little more than I thought it needed to, and I had a little trouble keeping up with the sequence of events while reading (thankful for the timeline in the back); however, this was a necessary read. McGreal helps spotlight the triggers for our opioid crisis and all the players (professional and political) who stayed out of the way to line their coffers. It was truly disheartening to see how many chances there were to stop it early and easily, and it broke my hear to see all the shrugged shoulders about what to do to fix it. As a warning, this is a "what went wrong" expose with no real ideas on how to fix things, which makes it a very bleak read.
Interesting and illuminating do not even come close to describing this book! This is the devastating narrative of how the opiate crisis came to pass in America. Written in a unique, comprehensive and educational manner, I found myself wishing that this book was a reading requirement for all high school students to help them avoid the pitfalls of the current addiction culture. I then found myself wishing it was a requirement for ALL Americans to read. Several years ago an individual remarked to me that soon not a person on the US would be left untouched by the opiate crisis. She insisted that soon everyone would have a friend or family member suffering from addiction. I remember thinking that this woman was quite mistaken. Three years on, I believe her prediction has come to pass. In American Overdose, Chris McGreal sets the framework for what would lead to arguably the biggest addiction crisis in America, founded on misguided policies, trust, corruption, booming profits and, of course, big pharma. Have other authors tackled this same topic? Sure; but not with the finesse and meticulousness of Chris McGreal. This book not only provides the “hows” and “whys” behind the crisis, it also provides up-close and personal glimpses into the lives of real people affected by pill mills, dishonorable doctors and a healthcare system off its tracks. Gripping, enthralling and informative. I rate this book a solid five stars.