Summary of The Poison We Pick

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Imagine a virus infecting two million Americans and killing more than 50,000 of them within a year. Most likely, society’s response would be swift and forceful. Replace the word “virus” with “opioids” in the first sentence, and you have a description of the extent of America’s current opioid epidemic. Yet unlike a viral disease, no single antidote will solve the opioid crisis, which best-selling author Andrew Sullivan blames on a complex set of social, cultural, psychological, economic and political factors. getAbstract recommends his eye-opening feature story to anybody interested in the broader cultural and historical context of America’s opioid crisis.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How America’s opioid crisis came about, and
  • Why the opioid crisis reflects a deeper social and cultural malaise in postindustrial America. 

About the Author

Andrew Sullivan is an author and contributing editor at New York magazine. 



More than two million Americans today are addicted to opioids in the form of heroin, morphine or newer synthetic versions – such as the painkiller fentanyl. Opioids dull users into a temporary state of bliss. They replicate the effect of oxytocin, a hormone the brain produces naturally when humans bond with one another. Opioid addiction has increased the most in places wrought by rapid economic decline. Communal life in many of the affected small towns used to revolve around factories and mines that provided secure and decently paying jobs. The closing of once-thriving industries, along with the Great Recession...

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