SALUTATIONS, as the spider said — and welcome to I’m a journalist and author, a newly-emptied nester (sniff), a frequent lecturer/speaker, a native Midwesterner (but Southerner for more than half my life), a former newspaper reporter, and the tired co-owner of two kind of terrible rescue dogs, Charley and Mavis.

On Aug. 6, 2019, Little, Brown and Company published the paperback version of my third (and by far hardest) book, “DOPESICK: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America,” a look at the national opioid epidemic. It was an instant bestseller, garnering positive reviews, lots of radio and television coverage — including an interview on Fresh Air .

Dopesick also won the L.A. Times Book Prize award for science and technology, and was short-listed for The Kirkus Prize and the Andrew Carnegie Medal.

Soon after the book release I signed a television series option with Hulu, Fox 21 Studios and Warren Littlefield, currently in production in Virginia. It stars Michael Keaton, Kaitlyn Dever, Rosario Dawson and others, and I can’t wait to see it.


I wrote this book the only way I knew how — by witnessing the epidemic’s landing in three Virginia communities over two decades and getting to know the people on the front lines. From distressed small communities in central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs, from disparate cities to once idyllic farm towns, it’s a heartbreaking trajectory that explains how the national crisis became so entrenched. I’m still covering the issue—writing about the settlements with opioid makers, and the parents of the dead who became unwilling activists and, in an audio documentary for Audible Original called “Finding Tess: A Mother’s Search for Answers in a Dopesick America,” about how systems abandon those with substance use disorder.

Van Zee Use

From the small sliding-scale clinic where he practices in Virginia’s westernmost county, Dr. Art Van Zee was among the first U.S. physicians to warn people about the dangers of OxyContin. The drug’s makers wrote him off as a crank while other physicians accepted free and lavish trips to beach resorts, complete with OxyContin-branded beach hats. Photo by Josh Meltzer

“Dopesick” illuminates the persistent and often conflicting gaps in the treatment and criminal-justice landscapes while shining a hopeful light on the heroes battling the worst drug epidemic in American history. Through unsparing and deeply human portraits, DOPESICK hones in on the families and first-responders — “the very hearts of the people who are running the long marathons of struggle and survival,” according to actor and author Tom Hanks, who calls the book “another deep — and deeply needed — look into the troubled soul of America.”


As Stanford addiction specialist Dr. Anna Lembke (author of “Drug Dealer, M.D.”) wrote of DOPESICK: “All prior books on this topic, including my own, were written as if describing the trunk, the ear, or the tail, without quite capturing the whole elephant. Journalist Beth Macy has packed the entire elephant and then some into one book.” Nobel-winning economist Sir Angus Deaton and Professor Anne Case also endorsed it, writing: “With compassion and humanity, Macy takes us into the lives of the victims, their families, law enforcement, and even some of the criminals. A great book!”

For DOPESICK, available for order here, I drew upon thirty years of reporting from southwest Virginia communities, just as I did in FACTORY MAN and TRUEVINE, both of which were named among The New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books. My work has long sought to bring attention to the marginalized and largely voiceless — the people left behind by growing inequality, technology, and globalization.

I recently discussed my evolution as a papergirl with Longform Podcast host Evan Ratliff: literally delivering my hometown newspaper, where I first learned to roam around interviewing all kinds of people, and my transition to writing articles and, later, books. (Spoiler alert: We talked source-building, structure and, gasp, footnotes.)


Dopesick begins with a 2016  visit to interview a convicted heroin dealer in prison at the request of Kristi Fernandez — that’s her arm in the photo, with her son’s 5-year-old signature. Kristi asked me to help her figure out how her burly construction-worker son, 19-year-old Jesse Bolstridge, became a heroin-overdose statistic.

Elsewhere on my website you can read about my upcoming book signings and talks, some recently published book reviews and articles I have written, advice I gave to college graduates, and my storytelling philosophy. (True fact: “There are no good stories in the newsroom.”) Among the themes that permeate my work: I grew up poor. Many of my best ideas have come from that fact — and also from photographers I know and love.

I have been accused of overusing em dashes, I prefer interviewing people in their kitchens, and I have gradually learned, after decades of following Associated Press newspaper style, to appreciate the book-writing charms of the Oxford comma. My favorite writing implements are the Pilot Precise V5 (extra fine, black) and the Palomino Blackwing 602 (its worthy motto is: “Half the pressure, twice the speed”). I’m addicted to a moveable white board product called Wizard Wall and have it plastered all over my office.

I sometimes play hooky on Friday afternoons, where you’ll  find me at my neighborhood movie theater, with a kids’ pack in my lap, and after that maybe sipping a Factory Girl IPA in the bar next door at Local Roots. Thank you for reading my work.

Now available for purchase!

  • Preorder Dopesick

  • Tom Hanks on “Factory Man”:

    Factory Man is “Great summer reading. I give it 42 stars. No, I give it 142 stars. Yeah, it’s THAT good.”
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  • The New York Times on “Factory Man”:

    This is Ms. Macy’s first book, but it’s in a class with other runaway debuts like Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” and Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”: These nonfiction narratives are more stirring and dramatic than most novels. And Ms. Macy writes so vigorously that she hooks you instantly. You won’t be putting this book down. — Janet Maslin
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