A revelatory, moving narrative that offers a harrowing critique of the war on drugs from voices seldom heard in the conversation: drug users who are working on the front lines to reduce overdose deaths
Media coverage has established a clear narrative of the overdose crisis: In the 1990s, pharmaceutical corporations flooded America with powerful narcotics while lying about their risk; many patients developed addictions to prescription opioids; then, as access was restricted, waves of people turned to the streets and began using heroin and, later, the dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl.
But that’s not the whole story. It fails to acknowledge how the war on drugs has exacerbated the crisis and leaves out one crucial voice: that of drug users themselves.
Across the country, people who use drugs are organizing in response to a record number of overdose deaths. They are banding together to save lives and demanding equal rights. Set against the backdrop of the overdose crisis, Light Up the Night provides an intimate look at how users navigate the policies that criminalize them. It chronicles a rising movement that’s fighting to save lives, end stigma, and inspire commonsense policy reform.
Told through embedded reporting focused on two activists, Jess Tilley in Massachusetts and Louise Vincent in North Carolina, this is the story of the courageous people stepping in where government has failed. They are standing on the front lines of an underground effort to help people with addictions use drugs safely, reduce harms, and live with dignity.
Journalist Lupick (Fighting for Space) focuses this candid and vital look at the harm reduction method of addiction treatment on two drug users turned activists. Jess Tilley, a native of Northampton, Mass., started snorting and shooting heroin to cope with the trauma of sexual abuse, and discovered harm reduction while seeking treatment for an abscess in her arm. Louise Vincent's bipolar disorder sent her on a downward spiral with drugs, but she now runs a needle exchange program in Greensboro, N.C. Lupick follows both women as they put the theory of harm reduction "that you could improve health outcomes for people who use drugs without entirely ending their drug use" into practice by organizing a march to commemorate "victims of the overdose crisis," developing a recovery program that doesn't require abstinence, and campaigning against efforts to prosecute people who unwittingly sell or procure drugs that cause someone's death. Lupick also delves into racial disparities in drug sentences, the arrival of fentanyl in the U.S. in the 2010s, and how social stigma hinders drug users' efforts to get help. But the book's greatest strength is the intimate portrait of two indomitable women who have dedicated their lives to helping others. This is a must-read for those on the front lines of the opioid crisis.