American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts

American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three ActsAmerican Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts by Chris McGreal
Published by PublicAffairs on November 1st 2018
ISBN: 1541773772
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(In 2012) “Doctors write more than 250 million prescriptions for opioids, enough to provide a bottle to every adult in America. The United States consumes more than 80 percent of the world’s prescription narcotics.”
– Scary, Scary statistic. That was 2012, not sure what the numbers are for 2018.

This was a pretty scary book. The statistics were staggering. While reading this book, I highlighted huge sections as I was blown away with the information. The Author points out how “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.”

“The Crude calculation is that prescription pain pills have claimed more than a quarter of a million of American lives.”

This book is told in three acts which highlight how Opioid use and addiction came to be. In the first section, the book examines how healthcare in the U.S. is run like a business where pharmaceutical companies profit off the pain and suffering of patients, how the policies are not strict enough and the FDA was complicit in the matter. The second section of the book, addiction is addressed. In the third section of the book, drug cartels are examined and how they exploited the market for addiction.

“For years, American doctors wrote more than a quarter-million opioid prescriptions. As Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers put it, “That’s enough painkillers to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month.”

The Author writes this book using staggering statistics but also shares stories ranging from addicts, doctors, family members and those in the pharmaceutical industry. Addiction has been around for a very long time. In the “1880’s, more than half of those hooked on the drug (morphine) were middle and upper class white women.” Cough syrups, especially those for children and teething syrups contained morphine, cannabis and alcohol. There were no regulations back then and people could use as much as they see fit.

Pain is a part of people’s lives. There are those who work very physically demanding jobs which leave them in pain day after day i.e. dancers, farmers, miners, construction workers, those in the timber industry to name a few. Painkillers help them to ease the pain, recover from injury and be able to do their job day after day. That is not to mention those who require surgery and are prescribed painkillers during their healing process. But what happens when addiction occurs? What happens when clinics pop up where an individual can pay $250.00 to see a doctor to be diagnosed with an injury so that he/she can obtain a prescription to Oxycodone? When all one needs to do is come back month after month and hand the receptionist another $250.00 and you will be given another prescription no questions asked? Shocking that such places exist.

Who is to blame for the addiction to painkillers? Prescription drug manufacturers, such as Purdue, who send out drug reps to give gifts to doctors’ offices in the form of coffee mugs, pens, food, etc., so that they can talk to the doctor about prescribing oxycodone or other medications. Are they to blame? The book states how “Purdue threw out unprecedented amounts of money into promoting Oxycontin, spending several times the advertising budgets of rivals.” Are doctors to blame for prescribing or over prescribing opiates, is the FDA to blame for not having more strict rules and regulations, are addicts to blame? What can be done? What is being done?

Whoever is to blame, it is scary how addiction to prescription drugs is skyrocketing. Turn on the news and there are reports of police officers and paramedics entering homes and finding children with an unconscious or deceased parent due to overdose. It’s also happening in parked cars and parks as well. Is there a solution? I don’t know. Pain exists, and we need treatment for it, but where do we draw the line?

This book was educational well written. Extremely well researched and laid out. The old “Knowledge is power” saying applies here. I do believe that doctors and health care providers are cracking down on what is prescribed. Some prescriptions require that an individual show a driver’s license or some form of identification when you pick up your prescriptions. But again, there are drug cartels who can and do sell the drugs on the street. It’s scary. This book just addresses the opioid epidemic. There are more out there. Last year, I received a call form my son’s school. A student found his parents edibles and thought they were candy and brought them in to share with friends. Several kids were rushed to the hospital after consuming them. Anyone see the news where a young boy died when he was hungry and mistook his father’s Meth for cereal? So many frightening things going on with drugs and drug addiction. Is there a solution? What is the solution?

Thank you to Perseus Books, Public Affairs and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.