3 Books Leading Toward An Answer

I’m a believer in continuous education. In that spirit and taking advantage of my Phase II retirement status I am reading more than ever the last few years. I spend a good part of my day reading and writing. One of the topics I don’t spend nearly enough time writing about is America’s opioid crisis. Three books have taught me a lot about it and made me reexamine my own prejudices. Please continue!


The first two books I recommend are Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain and Beth Macy’s Dopesick. What order you read them in primarily depends on you. Empire of Pain is a 30,000-foot view of the problem while Dopesick is much more ground level.

Macy’s Raising Lazarus should be the final in the “trilogy”. I view it as a capsule course in an academic program. Macy did much of her personal story narrative set against a more Radden Keefe like sky view to provide a frame of reference.

Progressive as I am, there is still a help yourself/personal responsibility apect of my thinking. I just find it difficult to perceive a child born with a birth defect and someone who somehow contributed to their own challenge in the same light. In the case of SUD, (Substance Use Disorder) – hey, among other things I also learned a new term – there is very much a physical aspect to the medical condition.

The knee jerk reaction is, “Lock ‘em up”. Over time we have simply learned that that approach doesn’t work. America can’t arrest and incarcerate its way out of this problem. Experience has taught us that the lock ‘em up approach also is more expensive by a ratio of about 9:1.

Money alone won’t solve the problem. One thing I learned during my time on the Board of a non-profit is that a lot of dollars are “lost” as they trickle down to the street level. The original source is often the federal government which grants money to the states and both have bureaucracies that eat up funding in overhead as they send the money to the street level organizations (who also have significant overhead expenses) that provide the direct aid. The financial and oversight controls that the “upper agencies” provide are important but a lot of dollars simply never make it to the afflicted. Sorry, I don’t have a solution to that very expensive glitch.

The biggest culprit in this story is the greed (ah, how often we come back to the seven cardinal sins that Chaucer taught us). The primary culprit in this particular story is the Sackler family who made billions off the misery of others and left society to pick up the pieces. Like many of the superrich they want to privatize the profits and socialize the expenses.

These few hundred words are woefully inadequate to cover this issue. Please read the three books I outlined – by the way, they are all on the Recommended Reading List. Raising Lazarus just came out last week but the other two have been out for a bit. If you can’t afford to buy them read the first two while you wait your turn on a waiting list at the public library.  If you can afford to buy them please do so at your local independent bookstore. “Indies”, as they like to be called, are the tip of the spear in deflating the bubble of disinformation (a/k/a lies). If you don’t have a good local book store please use mine: Page 158 in Wake Forest, NC. www.page158books.com 919-435-1843.

In any event educate yourself on this topic. It just might modify your thinking. It did mine.

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