In Pain (Hardcover)
A Bioethicist's Personal Struggle with Opioids
Harper, 9780062854643, 320pp.
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
A bioethicist’s eloquent and riveting memoir of opioid dependence and withdrawal—a harrowing personal reckoning and clarion call for change not only for government but medicine itself, revealing the lack of crucial resources and structures to handle this insidious nationwide epidemic.
Travis Rieder’s terrifying journey down the rabbit hole of opioid dependence began with a motorcycle accident in 2015. Enduring half a dozen surgeries, the drugs he received were both miraculous and essential to his recovery. But his most profound suffering came several months later when he went into acute opioid withdrawal while following his physician’s orders. Over the course of four excruciating weeks, Rieder learned what it means to be “dope sick”—the physical and mental agony caused by opioid dependence. Clueless how to manage his opioid taper, Travis’s doctors suggested he go back on the drugs and try again later. Yet returning to pills out of fear of withdrawal is one route to full-blown addiction. Instead, Rieder continued the painful process of weaning himself.
Rieder’s experience exposes a dark secret of American pain management: a healthcare system so conflicted about opioids, and so inept at managing them, that the crisis currently facing us is both unsurprising and inevitable. As he recounts his story, Rieder provides a fascinating look at the history of these drugs first invented in the 1800s, changing attitudes about pain management over the following decades, and the implementation of the pain scale at the beginning of the twenty-first century. He explores both the science of addiction and the systemic and cultural barriers we must overcome if we are to address the problem effectively in the contemporary American healthcare system.
In Pain is not only a gripping personal account of dependence, but a groundbreaking exploration of the intractable causes of America’s opioid problem and their implications for resolving the crisis. Rieder makes clear that the opioid crisis exists against a backdrop of real, debilitating pain—and that anyone can fall victim to this epidemic.
About the Author
Travis Rieder, PhD, is faculty at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, where he directs the Master of Bioethics degree program.
Praise For In Pain: A Bioethicist's Personal Struggle with Opioids…
— Beth Macy, author of Dopesick
“With this smart, riveting, real-life account, the author proves himself a convincing and effective advocate for opioid use reform. A harrowing cautionary narrative that speaks to patients and physicians alike on the ugly reality of the enduring opioid epidemic.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Bioethicist Travis Rieder uses his own experience with opioid dependence to powerfully highlight how the American healthcare system needs to reform its approach to pain management.”
— Paste Magazine, The Best Books of June 2019
“A deep historical dive into the history of opioid use in America, the science behind pain and pain treatment, and the medical practice surrounding pain and how it’s changed over the last few decades.”
— Inquiring Minds podcast
“As an academic bioethicist, Rieder provides a philosophical lens to his lived experiences. It is this contribution where In Pain departs from other published narratives on pain and substance use…. Rieder discusses moral philosophy concepts such as first- and second-order desires, as well as duties and obligations, in digestible prose that is as profound as it is engaging. In Pain is an invitation for compassion for the millions of people around the world suffering with pain and substance use disorders, but it is also a call to action, not just for more responsible opioid prescribing but for a fundamental change to how pain management is delivered.”