Opioid Epidemic Reading

Below is a list of books, articles and online resources that provide background information on the history and current situation of the opioid epidemic. If you have reading suggestions, please let us know.

Books & Articles

Creating the American Junkie: Addiction Research in the Classic Era of Narcotic Control (2002), Caroline J. Acker. Using accounts from both drug users and scientists, Acker details the medical construction of addiction in the twentieth century and its subsequent effect on drug policy.

Addiction Trajectories (2013), eds. Eugene Raikhel, William Garriott. An anthropological anthology that highlights various perspectives around the social construction of addiction.

Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (2002), David Courtwright. A history of drug policy and the economics of a variety of substances.

Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America (2001), David Courtwright. Traces changing patterns of drug use in America during the 20th century.

Using Women: Gender, Drug Policy and Social Justice (2000), Nancy Campbell. An ethnography that examines the way drug policies and social perspectives around drug use shape the experiences of women who use drugs.

Righteous Dopefiend (2009), Philippe Bourgeois and Jeffrey Schonberg. An ethnography of heroin users in the San Fransisco area.

The Clinic and Elsewhere: Addiction Adolescents and the Afterlife of Therapy (2013), Todd Mayers. Follows a group of teens from the first day they enter a rehab facility out into their lives after. Rather than a study of the drug economy, the book is study of the therapeutic economy around addiction.

How Profits From Opium Shaped 19th-Century Boston (WBUR)

STAT Forecast: Opioids Could Kill Nearly 500,000 Americans in the Next Decade (STAT News)

The Forces Driving Middle-Aged White People’s ‘Deaths Of Despair’ (NPR)

Why Are White Death Rates Rising? (New York Times)

This Won’t Hurt a Bit: The Cultural History of Pain (New Statesman)

The Changing Face of Heroin Use in the United States: A Retrospective Analysis of the Past 50 Years (Journal of the American Medical Association)

Details On Death Certificates Offer Layers Of Clues To Opioid Epidemic (NPR)

The Enemy is Us: The Opioid Crisis and the Failure of Politics (Dissent Magazine)

The Queer Activists Working to Reverse America’s Opioid Crisis (Them)

Finding Good Pain Treatment is Hard: If You’re Not White, It’s Even Harder (New York Times)

A Capsule History of Pain Management (JAMA)

From Free Trade to Prohibition: A Critical History of the Modern Asian Opium Trade (Urban Law Journal, Fordham)

Issue brief: Reports of increases in opioid-related overdose and other concerns during COVID pandemic (American Medical Association)

The Pandemic Has Changed Addiction Treatment, Some Hope For Good (WBUR)


Throughline: America’s Opioid Epidemic (2019), podcast

In America’s Heartland, an Unlikely Activist Tackles the Opioid Epidemic, podcast (DirectRelief.org)

New Jersey Heroin and Opioid Art Exhibition — An annual art exhibition in Newark, New Jersey that highlights heroin use, opioids, addiction, and recovery.

Improbable Players — A performance troupe that uses theater to address issues relating to addiction, alcoholism, and the opioid epidemic.

The Opioid Project: Changing Perceptions Through Art and Storytelling — a community-based project put on by McLean Hospital in which an individual in recovery and one chosen loved one each make a piece of art about their experiences struggling with addiction and its effects.

This Is Treatment — a musical by Elizabeth Addison that follows three women throughout their time at a residential drug rehabilitation facility.

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies: Arts and the Opioid Epidemic — guidance and examples of state-based arts initiatives around the opioid epidemic

General Information

Partnership for Drug Free Kids

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

National Institute of Mental Health

Center for Disease Control

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Boston Indicator’s Opioid Crisis Report

This project is supported by a Transformative Public Art grant from the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.