In 2018 Beth Macy published “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America.” In that book Macy, a native of Urbana, Ohio, delved into the origins of our national opioid crisis.
‘Dopesick” got adapted into a television production. Macy was not finished with this story however. The Champaign County native followed it up with “Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis,” which recently came out in paperback.
In the first book Macy described how the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the drug OxyContin, was instrumental in fueling an epidemic of opioid overdoses and how the Sackler family, the owners of that firm, made billions of dollars in profits.
She showed us the devastation wrought by a plague of drug use that is ongoing. When the underground supply of OxyContin was finally cut off users switched to lethal illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Overdoses soared during the pandemic.
In this follow up we meet people who are fighting back. We learn about methods being employed to break out of this cycle. Macy asserts that harm reduction policies like needle exchange programs are crucial.
In “Raising Lazarus” the author writes: “Whether we realize it or not, most of us continue blaming the victims rather than the corporations, politicians, and impotent regulators who allowed the wealthy to poison our nation.”
The book contains many stories of hope. For instance, we meet a tough former Marine, a retired DEA agent named Mark Willis. He lives by the Marine Corps motto “improvise, adapt, and overcome.” He got federal grants so drug users in his rural area could receive transportation to get treatment.
We obtain updates on corporations that reaped obscene profits from marketing opioids. The swath of death and destruction that their greed engendered is the basis for ongoing litigation. Some of the profiteers have spent millions on attorneys while attempting to shield their ill-gotten assets.
We find out the chilling truth that the manufacturers of OxyContin were fully aware the drug was being abused and that they tried to conceal the fact that they knew. There was all that money to be made, billions of dollars. Gluttonously addicted to exorbitant profits, they had become merchants of death.
In 1999 an award winning employee of Purdue Pharma was told to monitor internet chat rooms to learn about the various ways in which OxyContin was being consumed. Once she reported her findings; they were snorting it, they were injecting it, she was ordered to destroy the information. The higher ups definitely knew the drug was being abused. Ironically the woman who conducted that research was eventually forced to resign. The reason? She had become addicted to OxyContin, too.
In her epilogue Macy boldly declares: “The United States of America will not reverse its declining life expectancy until we replace our current system of corporate socialism with one that puts the health and happiness of regular people ahead of billionaires. Health care and housing should be basic human rights, full stop.”
Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at email@example.com.