8 Recent Books Shedding Light on the Opioid Epidemic

Read these books for insight into America’s opioid crisis.

As the opioid epidemic expands each year, the number of books about America’s overdose crisis also continues to rapidly grow. Several new titles covering all angles and perspectives of the epidemic and its history have been released, offering new research and insight into the complex issues involved.

In addition to these nonfiction books, there are several new works of fiction that approach the struggle of addiction with compassion, care, and nuance. Each one contributes to a deeper understanding of where we are at and where we need to be going.

Nonfiction

American Fix: Inside the Opioid Addiction Crisis – and How to End It

by Ryan Hampton (2018)

Ryan Hampton is a former White House staffer and opioid addict who is now a national recovery advocate with ten years clean. With American Fix, he gives an inside account of the opioid crisis from firsthand knowledge through his own personal journey in addition to calling for new, long-term, evidence-based models of treatment that have shown to be more effective than the traditional 28-day model. Overall, the message is uplifting, giving hope of new directions and possibilities for treatment.

American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts

by Chris McGreal (2018)

Extensive and exhaustively researched depiction of the epidemic by McGreal, a reporter for The Guardian. It covers much of the same ground as other books like Dopesick, focusing a lot on the start of the crisis and the greed of pharmaceutical companies like Purdue. Where it contributes the most is in the account of the next acts, a “maturing of the epidemic”. As one FDA official puts it, “People are addicted, and that means they’re going to keep needing it. It’s going to be years that they stay on it until they finally get over it. If they don’t get killed.”

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America

by Beth Macy (2018)

Immediate New York Times bestseller and released to high praise, Journalist Beth Macy focuses on central Appalachia as the heart of crisis and widens the scope from there to show how individuals and communities are affected. Through talking to opioid users, family members, dealers, doctors, judges, activists, emergency responders, and law enforcement, we get a much larger picture of the causes and effects.

Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss

by Stephanie Wittels Wachs (2018)

Harris Wittels didn’t fit the stereotype of what a junkie looks like. He was a successful comedian, actor, producer, and writer for Sarah Silverman and on shows like Parks and Recreation and Master of None. Even with all his talent and jobs coming his way, he was not able to get clean and stay clean, eventually dying from an overdose in 2015 at age 29. Everything is Horrible and Wonderful is written by Harris’s sister, Stephanie, about his tragic death and the aftermath of losing her younger brother who was her best friend and also an addict.

Hey, Kiddo

by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (2018)

Extremely timely as more and more children are being raised by grandparents due to their parent’s addiction. Krosoczka is a well-known children’s illustrator and author who didn’t realize till later in life that his mother is an addict. Growing up, he was raised by his grandparents after she can no longer care for his basic needs due to being in and out of rehab and his father is out of the picture. This graphic memoir is an honest and accurate portrayal told from the child’s point of view of what it’s like growing up with a suffering parent who still loves and cares and is trying their best but are wrestling with a terrible addiction.

Fiction

Cherry

by Nico Walker (2018)

Debut novel from Nico Walker who wrote it while incarcerated for bank robbery. The fictional book is based on Walker’s life, telling the story of an unnamed narrator who drops out of college, joins the army, returns home to Cleveland, and becomes addicted to heroin as a result of his being lost and directionless. The honest and accurate portrayal of addiction and withdrawal has led to it being called the “first great novel of the opioid epidemic”.

Marlena

by Julie Buntin (2017)

After her parents divorce, teenager Catherine moves from rural upper Michigan to a suburb of Detroit and meets her neighbor Marlena, who happens to be the daughter of a meth cook. Marlena is everything Cat is not – cool, worldly, up-for-anything, extremely charismatic, and deeply troubled. Through her friendship with Marlena, Cat cuts class and begins to experiment with drugs and alcohol, that lasts into her 30s. In less than a year, Marlena winds up dead and Cat is haunted for the next couple decades. In one scene, Marlena panics when she drops her oxycodone pills that she always carries on her and Cat thinks, “Now it strikes me as a profoundly American thing — an epidemic that started as an abuse of the cure, a disease we made ourselves. But what did I know about America? Back then I’d been affected with a chronic political apathy, a symptom, maybe, of being part of a family that was always barely scraping by, conditioned to be wary of the system.”

Ohio

by Stephen Markley (2018)

Similar to Cherry, Ohio is also a devastating depiction of the aftermath of returning from war and getting swept up by the opioid epidemic and is set in Ohio.  This novel is about four former high school classmates who return to a small fictional town in southeast Ohio, called New Canaan, one night in 2013.  Each one has experienced hard times during their 20s and now wants to make things right. The book reads more like a set of four portraits of characters coming together in a town that has been ravaged by the recession, addiction, suicide, and hopelessness, all with their own forms of escape and return.

Sex, Drugs, Rock’n’Roll & Recovery: The Must Read Memoirs from 8 Musicians Who Survived Addiction

Addiction recovery is possible, despite rock’n’roll stereotypes. 8 of the best memoirs by musicians in recovery.

The list of famous musicians who have tragically succumbed to the rock and roll lifestyle is endless and cliched. It’s easy to get caught up in the stories of those who died far too young as a result of their excesses out of some sort of morbid curiosity. On the other side, there are those tales of hope and redemption, of those who overcame their addictions and survived. We have a roundup of 8 memoirs by famous musicians who went pretty far down the rabbit hole of their affliction and managed to turn things around.

1. Clapton: The Autobiography by Eric Clapton (2007)

Eric Clapton is a world renowned singer, songwriter, rock and blues guitarist, member of the Yardbirds and Cream.

“My second visit to Hazelden was, on the face of it, much like the first, but, on a deeper level, it was very different. This time I had no reservations about why I was there—I had tried to control my drinking and failed—so there was no more debate, no more gray area for me. Also, my life had become very complicated and completely unmanageable during my relapse. I now had two children, neither of whom I was really administering to; a broken marriage; assorted bewildered girlfriends; and a career that, although it was still chugging along, had lost its direction. I was a mess.”

2. The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane and Neil Martinez-Belkin (2017)

Gucci Mane is a rapper and pioneer of trap music.

“In the beginning, lean [soda mixed with codeine-based cough medicine] had been something special, a vice I enjoyed. An indulgence. Now it was something I required to operate. My fame was at an all-time high, and these pints helped me calm down and relax in situations where I would otherwise feel anxious, like a big performance or a radio interview where I knew I’d get asked about some shit I didn’t want to talk about.”

3. The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities by Wayne Kramer (2018)

Wayne Kramer is the co-founder of Detroit rock group the MC5.

“By the mid-’70s, I had been on the fringe of the criminal underworld for years. Ten years prior, before the era of the hippy pot dealer, if you wanted to smoke reefer you had to know somebody. Some of these fellows were real Damon Runyon characters: Freddy the Waiter, Smooth Paul. Crime had an allure for me. I have always identified with and romanticized outsiders. It’s rock ‘n’ roll: being a rebel and all that. I read most of Donald Goines’ black gangster novels, Burroughs’ “Junky,” and dozens of other books about organized crime and lowlife dope fiends. I identified with them, and they became my new idols. The regular world had betrayed me, so I went to a new, harder, darker, sexier world where wrong was right. An upside-down world where stealing and pulling a successful scam was admired, and getting up and going to work was for chumps.

4. Hit So Hard: A Memoir by Patty Schemel (2017)

Patty Schemel is the former drummer for Hole with Courtney Love.

“That fall, Larry would become my first drug buddy. We liked the way smoking pot made music sound like we were swimming in an 8-track. That sealed it for me; I needed the daily ritual of substance abuse and rock ‘n’ roll. Vodka and Coke in my collectible Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil glass went best with the swirly phaser breakdown of “Whole Lotta Love.” Thank God the two coincided in my life while I was still young. What a waste of music not to take drugs!”

5. Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis and Larry Sloman (2004)

Anthony Kiedis is the lead singer and songwriter for Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“The good news is that by the second year, those cravings were about as half as frequent, and by the third year, half as much again. I’m still a little bent, a little crooked, but all things crooked, I can’t complain. After all those years of all kinds of abuse and crashing into trees at eighty miles an hour and jumping off buildings and living through overdoses and liver disease, I feel better now than I did ten years ago. I might have some scar tissue, but that’s alright, I’m still making progress.”

6. Slash by Slash (2007)

Slash is the original lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses

“I wasn’t fine. But I was almost ready to admit it. I knew that my debauchery needed to end. I had planned to get some space from my wife and from my band after I’d allowed myself those predetermined four months to let it all hang out; I knew I was in need of some solace and quiet. And I got it. This time rehab turned out to be really good for me, because this time I surrendered. First I kicked the drugs, then I cleared my head and did some work on figuring out why I liked to put myself in the same position over and over again. Early in the morning of July 3, 2006, I checked into rehab. I did a full thirty days, I fully surrendered…I learned more about myself than I ever thought was possible. And of this writing, I’ve been sober ever since.”

7. The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star by Nikki Sixx (2007)

Nikki Sixx is the co-founder and drummer for legendary rock band Motley Crue.

“There is something about spending Christmas alone, naked, sitting by the Christmas tree gripping a shotgun, that lets you know your life is spinning dangerously outta control.”

8. Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol by Steve Jones (2017)

Steve Jones is the guitarist from notorious punk band The Sex Pistols.

“Even now I’ve been sober twenty-five years, I still wake up kind of miserable a lot of the time, but I don’t think you’re ever going to think, ‘Everything’s gonna be great from now on, because I’ve discovered the true meaning of me.’ I’m just happy not to be loaded. To that end, I do a lot of talks and sponsor a couple of other people as well, which I get a lot out of. Plus I still go to four or five meetings a week. I get there early and I thank the speaker afterwards.”

 

Many famous musicians struggled with various addictions, but many were also able to recover and went on to produce a lot of great music instead of falling victim to the stereotype. Their stories serve to provide strength and inspiration to others on a path of healing and health.