Monday, October 14, 2019

American Epidemic

American Epidemic by John McMillian (Editor)
The New Press: 10/22/2019
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781620975190

American Epidemic: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Opioid Crisis is a very highly recommended collection of powerful published articles on the opioid crisis. This is a heart-breaking eye-opening examination of the devastation caused by the increasing addiction to opioids and an essential introduction to the crisis.
This collection is a must read. It will focus your attention on what matters, what is happening right now. In the introduction John McMillian writes: "In 2018, drug overdose deaths in the United States set a new record. There were more than 70,000 of them, mostly due to opioids." He continues: "Let’s put this in perspective. Seventy thousand is far more than the number of Americans who died in 2017 from car accidents (40,100), or guns (39,773), or suicide (47,173). It is more than the number of American servicemen killed during the entire Vietnam War (58,220). It is far more than all of the American deaths from 9/11, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War, combined (39,396, as of March, 2019). Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under fifty. Life expectancy in the United States has diminished over the past three years - a phenomenon that is unprecedented since World War II." Where is the outrage?
I know two families who have had a child die due to an opioid addiction. I can't be the only one. Why is this very real and growing catastrophe being overlooked in favor of "maybe" crises. What is actually stealing childhoods and causing harm? These pieces published between 2012 and 2018 cover the crisis and the very real people who are affected and who are dealing with this epidemic - users, families, medical personal, and law enforcement. The well-written and informative articles cover the crisis in different areas of the country, although the epidemic is worse in certain sections.  Contributors include: Leslie Jamison, Beth Macy, Tom Mashberg and Rebecca Davis O'Brien, Sam Quinones, Susan Dominus, Eli Saslow, Eric Eyre, Sarah Resnick, Germna Lopez, Christopher Caldwell, Margaret Talbot, James Winnefeld, Joe Eaton, Katharine Q. Seelye, Andrew Sullivan, Gabor Maté, Johann Hari, Adi Jaffe, Maia Szalavitz, and Julia Lurie.

I had several sections highlighted from my reading but I want to share two. One is from Christopher Caldwell in First Things (April 2017): "The culture of addiction treatment that prevails today is losing touch with such candor. It is marked by an extraordinary level of political correctness. Several of the addiction professionals interviewed for this article sent lists of the proper terminology to use when writing about opioid addiction, and instructions on how to write about it in a caring way. These people are mostly generous, hard-working, and devoted. But their codes are neither scientific nor explanatory; they are political."
The second is based on the fact that the brain isn't fully developed until people are in their mid-twenties, which made what James Winnefeld wrote in "Epidemic," from The Atlantic on November 29, 2017 eye-opening: "Because the brain is so adaptable while it’s still developing, it’s highly susceptible to dependencies, even from non-opioids such as today’s newly potent marijuana strains. We now understand that early marijuana use not only inhibits brain development; it prepares the brain to be receptive to opioids. Of course, like opioids, marijuana has important medical applications, and it seems to leave less of a mark on a fully matured brain. It’s worth examining whether it would make sense to raise the legal marijuana age to 25, when the brain has fully matured."

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of The New Press.

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