The Opioid Crisis: A Reference Handbook. By David E. Newton. Contemporary World Issues. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2018. 258 pages. Acid-free $60 (ISBN 978-1-4408-6435-3). E-book available (978-1-4408-6436-0), call for pricing.

The opioid crisis has been a topic of much concern for much of the last decade, and it has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. The CDC estimates that 115 people per day die from overdosing on opioids, and countless articles, news stories, social media accounts, and television programs have documented the destruction. This latest volume in ABC-CLIO’s Contemporary World Issues series, authored by David E. Newsome, a prolific writer with an EdD in science education, tackles the history, epidemiology, and controversies surrounding the twenty-first century public health crisis.

Adhering to the format of other titles in this series, The Opioid Crisis has seven sections that cover the background and history of the topic; problems, controversies, and solutions surrounding the epidemic; perspectives of individuals whose lives in some way have been touched by opioid addiction; a section of profiles on organizations and individuals who have made contributions to the development, study, and treatment of opioids and their abuse; and supporting data and documents. A section on resources and a chronology complete the volume. The prose is clear and written with the general reader in mind, so it is easily accessible to the layperson. This is especially evident in the section on background and history, which gives an excellent overview of both the history of opioid development and use and a good general introduction on opioid chemistry and pharmacology. The “Problems, Controversies, and Solutions” section does well in balancing the alarming consequences of opioid misuse while discussing the positive role these drugs have in chronic pain and disease management. Particularly powerful is the “Perspectives” section, which allows the reader to hear firsthand accounts of people who have been in some way involved in or affected by opioid use and addiction. The resources section consists of an annotated bibliography of citations to recently published books, articles, and websites for further study and investigation, and a final chronology helps give opioid use a historical perspective. A glossary and index are also included.

As noted in the resource section, a number of books have recently been published on opioid addiction and its effect on American society. Victor Stolberg’s Painkillers: History, Science and Issues in ABC-CLIO’s Story of a Drug series (Greenwood, 2016) covers some of the same ground, but it does not concentrate on the opioid crisis in particular. Other books, such as Martin Booth’s Opium: A History (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999) or Sam Quinones’s Dreamland (Bloomsbury, 2015) deal with one particular aspect of opioid history and use but are not useful for a general overview of the subject. Given its wide coverage of the opioid crisis, the well-researched nature of the volume, and the easily accessible writing style for general readers, this is a very good one-volume resource for nonspecialists, high school and undergraduate students, and the general public.—Amanda K. Sprochi, Health Sciences Cataloger, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri


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