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American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts
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American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts

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4.21  ·  Rating details ·  205 ratings  ·  56 reviews
A comprehensive portrait of a uniquely American epidemic--devastating in its findings and damning in its conclusions

The opioid epidemic has been described as "one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine." But calling it a mistake is a generous rewriting of the history of greed, corruption, and indifference that pushed the US into consuming more than 80 percent of the w
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Published November 1st 2018 by PublicAffairs
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Chris McGreal Yes, my book delves into not only how the epidemic spread on the ground but how it was allowed to happen. Where were the institutions that should have…moreYes, my book delves into not only how the epidemic spread on the ground but how it was allowed to happen. Where were the institutions that should have been protecting Americans, like the Food and Drug Administration? Why were the alarm bells rung 15 years ago ignored? This is a story of how an industry coopted and corrupted medical policy, and why the people with the power to do something about it went along. (less)

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Debra
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
4.5 stars

(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.

***Please note the information I received from the Author after writing my review. The below information concerns levels today. The new updated information will be included in the final proof of the book!:

"Around 200 million-plus opi
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Diane S ☔
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unconsciousable, if there is one word I would use to describe the greed I read about in this book, this would be the word. One would have to be completely out of touch to have not heard on the news, or read in the papers, about the opoid epidemic striking our nation. Untold deaths, families, lives ruined. A documentary about West Virginia, which was literally a opoid mill, was shown a few months back, towns completely taken over by addiction. What I didn't realize was how this was accomplished. ...more
Michael
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
A three-part history of the opioid epidemic, American Overdose charts how relentless greed led the pharmaceutical industry to hook the nation on highly addictive painkillers. Journalist Chris McGreal starts his book by tracking how Big Pharma, in cooperation with the federal government, fabricated and popularized the myth of a national pain epidemic in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, in order to market dangerous new opioids first to white Appalachians and later to Americans at large. The author then de ...more
Michelle
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts (2018) is a devastating and shocking expose of the chain of events that defines the worst drug epidemic in American history, authored by notable journalist for the Guardian Chris McGreal. As ordinary American’s use and abuse substance, suppliers/dealers of illicit drugs were included in the same category as the wellness clinics, “pill mills” (of West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida) and the doctor’s that prescribed “astronomical” amount ...more
Hadrian
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, medicine, usa
Investigation of the effects of the opioid crisis. The book's greatest strengths are on-the-ground reporting in West Virginia, the epicenter of painkiller distribution and addiction rates, and the broad institutional negligence that allowed the crisis to fester since the early 2000s.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I was riveted by this account of the start and spread of the opioid epidemic and how it has helped fuel the rise of heroin and fentanyl. McGreal deftly deals with the complicated mix of players from the pharma companies to unscrupulous physicians, corrupt police and politicians, and failed government oversight. He highlights the hazards of a government that bends more to corporate interests instead of protecting the public health. A fascinating read.
Shelly
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
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 m ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
McGreal chases the string of events via which Purdue pharma got doctors to start thinking of pain as a "fifth vital sign" and, with relaxed advertising rules, started convincing people that pain was an unendurable blight, even after surgery or as part of aging. Once the market was primed, FDA labeling lobbied for by the company, and sales people armed with big data targeting specific communities and doctors flooded the medical community with Oxycontin, Oxycodone and promises that time release wo ...more
Kyle
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
A received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

A fascinating read about how the opioid epidemic arose. Through meticulous research, McGreal is about to identify the various factors and individuals responsible for this epidemic. McGreal explores the epidemic from all angles, and presents perfect representation of each subject and how it contributed to the epidemic. Even those readers already well versed in this subject will gain a greater knowledge of the opioid e
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Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
This review can also be found on my blog!

I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!
This is publishing November 1st!


CW: drug use, addiction, overdoses, suicide, and government assholes


Where I am for my social work practicum is a place very different than this book’s stance. Every day — well, Mondays and Tuesdays — I listen to opioid use and the people who use them to make themselves better. The angle I’m coming at this topic from is very different than what McGreal is comme
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Janet
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
From the publisher ---
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
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Melissa
I haven't read Dreamland or Dope Sick yet (on the TBR, I swear) but my first dive into books about the opioid crisis made me Very Angry. All the systems that are supposed to prevent problems like this failed us because Capitalism and Political Lobbying (like, WTF, do people not understand what a Conflict of Interest is???). Also, an extremely concerning disregard of actual science by scientists and physicians.
Jess
Nov 10, 2018 is currently reading it
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
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Jessie
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This book makes an attempt, in three acts, to sum up the current opioid crisis in America. It’s long long form journalism. This is a heavy topic, although I have to say, the weight of this book for me was more about the often unparsable reams of info about big pharma, the FDA, and all of the legal issues with the mainstream prescribing of opiates for moderate pain, than to do with the astounding death tolls. I think the facts shared were well researched, but this book was short of qualitative in ...more
Darcia Helle
"Tragedy" is an apt word for the way opioids have been managed by pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and our government. I've read several books on this topic, and American Overdose is right up there with the best.

One aspect that makes this a standout read is that Chris McGreal addresses the FDA's absolute failure in oversight, and perhaps even complicity in the false and dangerous claims about a prescription drug that led to nationwide addiction. If you happen to come to this book with the bel
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Jennifer
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My first Netgalley!

This book made me so mad. As a substance abuse counselor the personal stories are not new to me, but how Oxycontin was pushed on doctors from the drug companies and marketed as safe was ridiculous. This went on for so many years before enough people stepped up and said enough. Unfortunately the damage has been done in so many says. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
Maureen
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
How many books will I read about the opioid crisis? Apparently as many as people will write. I found this book more engaging than Dopesick in many ways. However, there were still long passages that were pretty boring. The worst for me was the lack of copy editing- a single dropped ‘the’ or ‘an’ is one thing but there were so many errors in this book, I almost stopped reading it. Overall this book is thoroughly researched and an informative, if infuriating, read.
Jill
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars

“A comprehensive portrait of a uniquely American epidemic--devastating in its findings and damning in its conclusions. The opioid epidemic has been described as "one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine." But calling it a mistake is a generous rewriting of the history of greed, corruption, and indifference that pushed the US into consuming more than 80 percent of the world's opioid painkillers. “

This book is eye-opening and very maddening to read. The sheer magnitude of this epidem
...more
Jill
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5 stars

“A comprehensive portrait of a uniquely American epidemic--devastating in its findings and damning in its conclusions. The opioid epidemic has been described as "one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine." But calling it a mistake is a generous rewriting of the history of greed, corruption, and indifference that pushed the US into consuming more than 80 percent of the world's opioid painkillers. “

This book is eye-opening and very maddening to read. The sheer magnitude of this epidem
...more
David Wineberg
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OxyContin: “Industrial-Scale Delivery of Death”

Opioids came to my attention a few years ago when a report came out that New York State doctors had written more than 24 million prescriptions for opioids the previous year. Unstated in the story, but obvious to me, was that there are only 19 million people in the state, total. Doctors were flooding the state with narcotics. That can’t be right. Chris McGreal’s American Overdose details how very wrong it was and continues to be. It’s capitalism, g
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Sarah
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
I mostly picked up this book because Liberty Hardy, on the podcast 'All the Books,' described it as a great and important read, especially since everyone has been somehow affected or in contact with the dangers of addiction.
This book is full of significant facts and historical background that fully details a trail of events that led to the full extent of the modern opioid crisis. A lot of it is really frustrating and difficult to read because of some of the marketing tactics and manipulative pe
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Beth
This book was somewhat unique in that it focused mostly on the perpetrators of the opioid epidemic - the pharmaceutical companies, the FDA, the doctors and pharmacies - rather than the victims. It was really interesting and frightening to learn about how drugs like OxyContin were approved and marketed as "not addictive" (!!!) and "safe for long-term use at ever-increasing dosages." Just WOW. And then reading about the unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists who ran the pill mills that both created ...more
Jen Bober
As someone who works in the field of addictions I was very interested in this book. I found it to be very well researched and really found it interesting hearing the timeline of this crisis. Watching this crisis unfold has just been heartbreaking. Learning the impact that pharmaceutical companies, doctors, FDA and other agencies had in this crisis is really upsetting. This book does a good job at outlining what was happening at the high level and all the money these pharmaceutical companies and ...more
Stephanie Rowsey
Thank you NetGalley for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. American Overdose is well researched and well written. This book exposes the opioid epidemic and the corrupt pharmaceutical companies and doctors who profited at the expense of rural Appalachian citizens. I have heard of the pill mills in Southern WV, but I was unaware of how unscrupulous the pharmaceutical companies were in their marketing schemes for OxyContin. This book is an excellent read.
Toni
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
An excellent overview of the opioid crisis focused primarily in the West Virginia area, but covers the history of the Pharma Co. and how it literally pushed its brand through this region and the surrounding area. An eye opening read for sure.
Whitney Archer
Dec 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Worth reading - the author does a solid job of tracking past regulation lapses to modern congressional actions. I like the other books I've read on this subject more (Dopesick, Dreamland), but this is well done.
Ian Pierce-Hayes
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A powerful read. Chris McGreal unravels the complexity underpinning the epidemic played out in America with prescription drugs. It reads like a thriller and there are some aspects of the book that are unbelievable. It shows the power of the pharmaceutical industry and the consequences of untrammelled market forces where profit comes before people.
Evy
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
fascinating and horrifying.
Jessica
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A tough but necessary read
Holly
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing. I tore through it after NetGalley approved my advanced reader copy in exchange for a review.

I am about as involved as a librarian can be in this issue without actually working in the substance abuse field. I have read a plethora of other related texts such as Dreamland, Pill City, American Fix, and Chasing the Scream. This book, American Overdose, is unique in that it provides and extremely comprehensive history on how Americans got addicted to opioids starting with pills a
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Chris McGreal is a reporter for the Guardian. A former correspondent in Johannesburg, Jerusalem and Washington DC, he now writes from across the United States.
He has won several awards including for his reporting of the Rwandan genocide, Israel/Palestine, and on the impact of economic recession in America. He received the James Cameron prize for "work as a journalist that has combined moral visio
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