Killing Pain: Understanding the Opioid Pandemic and the American Obsession with Oxycontin, Heroin, and Other Painkillers (Paperback)

Killing Pain: Understanding the Opioid Pandemic and the American Obsession with Oxycontin, Heroin, and Other Painkillers By Robert Hayward Cover Image
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A man plumbs the depths in a struggle with opioid addiction in this searing memoir.

Hayward was sober after decades of heavy drinking and owned a swimming pool construction business in Southern California when, in the early 2000s, he started taking the opioid OxyContin for back pain. The drug eliminated the pain and induced a euphoric high, but while it was touted as nonaddictive, it proved quite the opposite. The author was soon snorting huge quantities every day to appease his craving; stealing money from his company to support his habit, which he fed with prescriptions and illicit street purchases; and alienating his family and employees with his manic bluster. A medical detox regimen got him clean, but he immediately relapsed and plunged further into chaos, including an incident in which he accidentally spilled his OxyContin pills into the pit underneath an outhouse--and dove in to retrieve them. Hayward finally went cold turkey at his isolated ranch in the Sierras, whereupon the memoir becomes a squalid but gripping story of wilderness survival. Snowed in at a freezing cabin with bears prowling outside, he endured horrific withdrawal symptoms--"I was crying, tears falling, snot dropping from my nose, drool from my mouth, throw up in my mouth, yellow/orange vomit shooting out in the front, black liquid squirting out from behind"--that sapped his will to live. The author's account lays bare the dynamics of opioid dependency, from the corrupt collusion of doctors in promoting addiction to the egotism and hubris of addicts in imagining they can control their habits. His prose is vivid and evocative in conveying the rush of opioid highs--"The colors of the forest and lake were vivid and pulsating....I sat on a boulder and wallowed in my addiction, exhilarated beyond ecstasy, a whole body and mind orgasm throbbed through my entire mind, body, and what was left of my soul"--and unsparing on the relentless taskmasters the drugs become. ("They turn you into a robot--going through life's motions, yet everything revolves around your next dose, next hit, next snort, next visit to the doctor or dealer, the endless counting and recounting of pills.") When Hayward finally writes of gleaning hope from God, his redemption feels authentic and moving.

An engrossing account of degradation and hard-fought recovery.

- Kirkus Reviews

Product Details
ISBN: 9781638149583
ISBN-10: 1638149585
Publisher: Covenant Books
Publication Date: February 8th, 2023
Pages: 324
Language: English