Beth Macy

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Themes and Colors
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
Race, Healthcare, and Criminal Justice Theme Icon
Fighting the Medical Establishment Theme Icon
The Value of Science Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Dopesick, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery

The current opioid crisis has affected people from all economic backgrounds, rich and poor. But Dopesick depicts how the poorest victims of the epidemic often face the most difficult path to recovery. Poorer people who want to seek treatment often face significant obstacles, including long wait lists, high treatment costs, and stringent requirements to qualify for aid. Furthermore, in order to save money, many states and local governments have limited the resources available to recovering…

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Cycles of History

One of the tragedies of the opioid epidemic, according to Beth Macy, is that the whole thing has happened before, and that anyone familiar with the history of opioids in the U.S. could have predicted the new epidemic. Knowledge of the addictive properties of opioids has existed in some form since the Neolithic Period. Much more recently, there was a widespread opioid epidemic in the U.S. around the turn of the twentieth century, when…

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Race, Healthcare, and Criminal Justice

Although the opioid crisis is most commonly associated with rural, predominantly white regions of the U.S., Beth Macy shows in Dopesick how it eventually went on to affect Americans of all races. Macy builds on the work of previous writers like Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson (both of whom she references in Dopesick) to explore how the so-called War on Drugs that took off during Ronald Reagan’s administration had a disproportionate effect on Black…

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Fighting the Medical Establishment

In Dopesick, Beth Macy argues that the American healthcare system has been broken in a significant way since at least the mid-1990s. Around the turn of the millennium, the healthcare industry began promoting the notion that pain was “the fifth vital sign,” and that physicians should respond to this sign by prescribing powerful painkillers, such as the opioid OxyContin. Conventional wisdom at that time also held that drugs like OxyContin were safe, with…

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The Value of Science

As a journalist, Beth Macy is interested in the stories of individuals, but in Dopesick she also frequently cites broader scientific studies, including statistics about relapse, recovery, and the most effective addiction treatments. The opioid epidemic is widespread, and while the experiences of individuals can be illuminating, statistics are an essential way to look at the epidemic on a macro level. At the same time, however, companies like Purdue Pharma often abuse the trust people…

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