Review: EMPIRE OF PAIN: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (2021)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: antisemitism, suicide, drug abuse, drug dependence, overdose, homophobia

One of my hyperfixations is the opioid abuse epidemic. My other is marketing (in fact, I have a degree and it’s my current profession). Patrick Radden Keefe’s history of the Sackler family, which brought to market Valium and OxyContin, covers the full spectrum of rich people nonsense, aggressive marketing which still informs the industry today, and one of the tragedies that has taken million lives over the past several decades.

Fascinating and induced many screams and clutching-the-side-of-my-face, this is a must-read for anyone who wants a more biographical account of how one of the most addictive painkillers became so widely (ab)used and the motions trying to bring the family to task.

If one of your favorite shows is Succession, you’re in for a treat. But also in for a lot of horror because all those shenanigans really happened to the detriment of many lives. It starts with the Great Depression and ends with legal proceedings going on in 2020. This book is fascinating and incredibly frustrating. There were some good ideas at the beginning, like how there should be humane ways of treating mental illness other than the travesty that’s the asylum system. That gets muddled when greed, marketing, and capitalism make their appearance. I clutched my head so many times in deep understanding of how things became the way they did, but also anger. Because there were opportunities to put a stop, but ultimately that comes from self-actualization and having a moral compass, neither of which are found in the more contemporary parts of the book.

What struck me most about this account of the Sackler is that Keefe takes steps not to demonize the who developed addictions to OxyContin. The focus on the victims is sympathetic. He also takes space in the book to acknowledge how the war on drugs disproportionately affects communities of color while the white family who brought it forth come out relatively unscathed. He keeps a strict focus on the family who brought the drug to market and their legal and personal entanglements.

This one will be occupying my thoughts for a while.

One thought on “Review: EMPIRE OF PAIN: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (2021)

  1. Pingback: July 2021 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

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