“Dopesick,” by journalist and author Beth Macy, is an eye-opener, a comprehensive and thoroughly researched book on the history, and reasons why we’re losing so many people to opioids, with crime running rampant as users steal to support their habit.

The opioid addiction, Macy reports, didn’t begin in a large city but took hold in impoverished areas of central Appalachia “…largely with the introduction of the painkiller OxyContin in 1996.”

Oxy initially wasn’t considered addictive, and was embraced by physicians as an effective treatment for pain. Drug reps eagerly dispensed the new miracle drug to doctors, and they passed it along to patients recovering from everything from hip replacement surgery to blown-out backs.

A short time after Oxy’s release, users figured out the best way to score with the drug was to dissolve the tablet’s outer coating in their mouths. This left “a tiny pearl of pure oxycodone (that) would be crushed, then snorted or mixed with water and injected. The euphoria was immediate and intense, with a purity similar to that of heroin.”

Macy’s book is disturbing but interesting, clear and easy to follow as she covers how opioids took hold in America, spreading across the country. She takes us from past to present day, where the pendulum to prescribe pain relieving drugs like OxyContin and Hydrocodone has swung the other direction making patients who really need the pills for pain relief feel like criminals.

“Dopesick” offers input from experts in a number of fields who address this heartbreaking societal issue as well as cutting edge treatment for drug abuse and educational options. Macy’s important and compassionate book encourages us to see addicts not as lowlifes but as people suffering from a life-threatening disease that often reoccurs.