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.
Journeying through lives and communities wrecked by the epidemic, Chris McGreal reveals not only how Big Pharma hooked Americans on powerfully addictive drugs, but the corrupting of medicine and public institutions that let the opioid makers get away with it.
The starting point for McGreal’s deeply reported investigation is the miners promised that opioid painkillers would restore their wrecked bodies, but who became targets of “drug dealers in white coats.”
A few heroic physicians warned of impending disaster. But American Overdose exposes the powerful forces they were up against, including the pharmaceutical industry’s coopting of the Food and Drug Administration and Congress in the drive to push painkillers–resulting in the resurgence of heroin cartels in the American heartland. McGreal tells the story, in terms both broad and intimate, of people hit by a catastrophe they never saw coming. Years in the making, its ruinous consequences will stretch years into the future.
Chris McGreal is a reporter for the Guardian and former journalist at the BBC. He was the Guardian’s correspondent in Johannesburg, Jerusalem and Washington DC, and now writes from across the United States. He has won several awards including for his reporting of the genocide in Rwanda, coverage of Israel/Palestine, and for writing on the impact of economic recession in modern America. He received the James Cameron prize for “work as a journalist that has combined moral vision and professional integrity”. He was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism for reporting that “penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth”. He is a former merchant seaman.