Opioid Epidemic

By Mary Simon

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 115 people in the U.S. die each day after overdosing on opioids. The Midwest has been hit particularly hard by this epidemic. Across the country, from rich neighborhoods to rural enclaves, it seems that no community has been spared the horror of this epidemic. It was caused, in good part, by doctors, seeking to help patients manage pain. Several publications now address the history and devastation of this epidemic, as well as responses by pharmaceutical companies, the federal government, faith leaders, and community activists.

[Supplement: Public libraries are helping communities respond to the devastation. The Public Library Association (PLA) and OCLC are producing eight case studies of varied communities in which the public library is playing a role in responding to the opioid crisis.]

  • The Opioid Epidemic

    2018 by Marcovitz, Hal

    This book contributes much to the overall picture of the history, development, and results of physician-assisted addiction.

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  • Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic

    2018 by Meier, Barry

    Critical reading for those trying to decipher how we got to this point in our attempts to manage pain.

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  • Sweetgirl

    2016 by Mulhauser, Travis

    A brave, determined young woman needs to find a family member in a brutally cold winter in the upper Midwest. The drug-infested environment she must penetrate provides a glimpse into the devastation wrought by a variety of illicit substances. Very appropriate for teens and young adults.

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  • American Fix: Inside the Opioid Addiction Crisis - and How to End It

    2018 by Hampton, Ryan

    Ryan Hampton knows and understands the opioid crisis better than many others, and he has made addiction and recovery reform his life's mission. His nonprofit organization, Facing Addiction, has emerged as one of the leading groups raising awareness of the national conversation on addiction.

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  • Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic

    2015 by Quinones, Sam

    Scathing in its overview of physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and legislators, this volume captures the severity and prevalence of the epidemic. Must reading.

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  • Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America

    2018 by Macy, Beth

    A well-researched, comprehensive overview of the effect opioid prescriptions have had on our country. Full disclosure: this book will make you very, very angry. Included on many "Best of 2018" nonfiction lists.

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  • American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts

    2018 by McGreal, Chris

    Written by the veteran Guardian foreign reporter Chris McGreal, this book provides an "outsider" view. It is a detailed and compelling account of the spread of opioid addiction across the Appalachian mountains. It focuses largely on West Virginia, in particular the town of Williamson, with a population of 3,191. To magnify the corruptness of the pharmaceutical companies and complicit doctors, McGeal points out that two of its pharmacies dispensed more than 20 million prescription painkillers in a decade (roughly 6,500 pills per resident). It is a thoroughly researched and fascinating perspective on class in America.

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  • Understanding the Opioid Epidemic


    PBS uses facts and figures, as well as interviews of key players involved in one way or another with the crisis. This DVD brings the situation to light as only a film can do. Disturbing but obligatory viewing to monitor the depth and breadth of the situation.

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  • A Sky for Us Alone

    2019 by Russell, Kristin

    Especially helpful for teens, this novel provides insight into the epidemic and is satisfying and uplifting in the end, despite the sadness of the subject matter.

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  • Heroine

    2019 by McGinnis, Mindy

    This young adult novel shows the devastation through the eyes of a college-bound softball star. Like many teens and adults, the protagonist was prescribed OxyContin for pain management following an injury. She didn't want to abandon her dreams of being awarded a scholarship for her athletic prowess, and opioids seemed the way to go. An insightful, honest accounting of the deep, dark hole that became her life.

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  • Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic


    This film and companion book can play a key role in educating communities about why opioid manufacturers should be held accountable for their calculated deception of health professionals and the general public. According to the liner notes, "Do No Harm Screening events are used to spark discussion and community dialogue, raise public awareness, encourage public policy advocacy, Inspire, and promote calls to action." Well worth viewing.

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