I already reviewed a follow up Audible Original by Beth Macy where she investigates the background to the murder and the murder of one of featured subjects of this book, a drug-addicted single mother from a well off family in Roanoke, VA who was found murdered in Las Vegas after leaving a drug treatment center in the Nevada city. What I didn’t realize then was that the primary sources of that podcast were its focus, hearing the interviews with the woman, Tess, and her family.
In this longer original work, there’s a much broader focus and the five hours of that podcast is trimmed down to an hour in this book, but represents a piece in a much larger story. Beth Macy is a longterm reporter in Roanoke, my home town (Roanoke is a smallish city encapsulated by a much larger, much more Conservative (and much whiter — Roanoke is extremely segregated still) county, enclosed by mountains with additional rural counties surrounding the area). It’s on I-81, a drug corridor parents in Roanoke when I was growing up constantly cited. But what occurs to me now, is that I have no idea what drugs they were discussing. I imagine crack and cocaine, and then meth, all still true, but I do remember when my mom’s focus was on oxycontin, years after I had moved away. So this whole epidemic of prescription oxycontin users turning to heroin has the air (in my mind) of being something that isn’t part of the town I recall. And that Hidden Valley High School, a school founded after I had left for college being a primary focus, too, cements this further.
So this book, if you haven’t read it, is highly recommended. It details the ways in which oxy and heroin work especially in rural and suburban white communities, for different reasons, and why there has been a shift in how it’s been covered, the “seriousness” with which it’s been taken, and the various bad actors and unwitting actors in its severity.
Beth Macy does not attempt (except for a few solid seeming remarks) address the whiteness of this particular problem, ie why people are only not paying attention, but does address some of the reasons why this recent spate of heroin addiction is distinct from previous ones — that it can grow in near exponential terms because of the relative wealth of the suburban users along with the specific ways in which middle and upper class families silence scandals. And of course with the rise of oxy and similar drugs. So it’s not as comprehensive as it could be, but for what it is, I think it’s very good.