3 out of 4 stars
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Stories about addiction used to employ the repetitive theme: either a nobody living on the fringes of society or a widely adored celebrity who lost his morals and surrendered himself to the euphoric lure of heroin. However, nowadays, things are not simplistic. As opioid abuse and opioid-related deaths have become prevalent among all walks of life, addiction should not be seen as a problem of morality anymore. We are asking the questions of how the crisis has reached this alarming peak and what we can do to alleviate the pain our loved ones are shouldering.
Harry Nelson is a healthcare lawyer having the misfortune to witness the unfolding of the opioid crisis in the past two decades. In 2017, it was directly responsible for approximately 49,000 deaths. Even worse, it is creeping up on one of the most innocent demographics: children aged ten to twelve. In The United States of Opioids, Nelson presents well-rounded observations and researches, from revisiting the first wave of opioid crisis in 1999, analyzing the underlying causes rooted in the changes of American society and economy, to explaining how we can tackle the problems from both systematic and interpersonal points of view. You can be assured that he will leave no stone unturned in the war against this “American healthcare’s self-inflicted wound.”
The book thoroughly illustrates how the crisis came to light and does not pull its punches when identifying the fundamental problems in America’s healthcare system. Nonetheless, the real highlights are the proposed solutions. He suggests drastic changes to every facet: healthcare, treatment strategies, government regulations, scientific research, and methods to build up dependable relationships and communities. The suggestions are extensive, specific, and sympathetic. I’m eager to see whether they will be implemented in real life and how they can help the victims of the crisis.
There are some arguments carrying strong impact, especially when dealing with Purdue Pharma’s aggressive and deceptive marketing schemes at the cost of patients’ health and lives, which will make you tremble with disgust and anger. Besides, the book has tiny pieces of wisdom containing insights about pain, gratification, and fulfillment. I hope some people will find them useful in difficult times to fight off depression and anxiety.
Harry Nelson has the logical head of a lawyer, the compassionate heart of a human, and the relentless spirit of an activist. The book is easy to read, understand, and digest thanks to the clear and concise writing style. In addition, he offers key takeaways for each chapter and provides many helplines and non-profit organizations’ addresses for people struggling with addiction to consult and share their stories with.
On the downside, when exploring the socioeconomic and psychological reasons for substance abuse, the author often resorts to deductions. While the insights make common sense, sometimes they resemble guesswork and subjective opinions; there are no concrete data and scientific studies to back up some statements. Such generic phrase as “many people have theorized that” may risk reducing the reliability of the book even more.
The author initially promises to recount some personal stories of his clients and acquaintances. However, they are sparse throughout the whole book. I wish there were more since there is nothing more resonant than a living person retelling the memories of a deceased beloved. The book also has many punctuation mistakes, especially concerning the misuse of commas.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The United States of Opioids is highly recommended to anyone who has acquaintances, relatives, or friends struggling with opioid addiction or those vulnerable to substance abuse. On the other hand, the book is unsuitable for impatient readers who are looking for a condensed snapshot of the crisis. It has some distressing details and challenging beliefs, so be prepared before reading it.
The United States of Opioids
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