MANCHESTER, NH – “Opioids claim the lives of 115 people per day. One of them could have been me,” says Timothy McMahan King, author of Addiction Nation: What the Opioid Crisis Reveals about Us (Herald Press, June 11, 2019, $17.99 soft cover).
King, who became addicted to narcotics prescribed after a near-fatal illness, recovered and learned to manage pain without opioids. In his new book, he asks profound questions about the nature of addiction and explores the cultural and spiritual roots of the epidemic.
“The first thing to understand is that it is not just about opioids,” King says. “It’s just the most recent manifestation of a devastating public health crisis of drug overdoses that has been sweeping across the United States for decades. It is borne of a crisis of meaning, a collapse of culture, constant consumption, corporate corruption, the end result of a so-called War on Drugs, a breakdown of public institutions, and a stifling of opportunity.”
King investigates the ways that addiction robs us of freedom and holds us back from being fully human. Weaving together personal stories, theology, philosophy, and cultural analysis, King examines today’s most common addictions and their destructive consequences. As a Christian, he analyzes the failures of religion while illuminating the power of grace.
After his recovery, King moved back to his hometown in New Hampshire, which vies with Ohio for second-highest drug overdose rates per capita and where a bag of fentanyl costs less than a six-pack of beer. In Addiction Nation, he grapples with the addiction crisis from a variety of angles, including:
- The injustice of the War on Drugs: “The primary public policy and cultural response to this nearly forty-year overdose crisis has been to blame those who are addicted or those who are supplying. A primary message of the War on Drugs was that poor people and Black people are more susceptible to addiction than others. Drug addiction was not seen as something fundamentally wrong with our society; it was something wrong with ‘those people’ and ‘those ’”
- Crisis of meaning: “People are dying because they feel that they don’t have enough to live for. Rising drug overdoses, alcohol-related deaths, and suicides are not distinct phenomena. When hundreds of thousands of individuals decide to give up on life at the same time and in the same ways, we need to reflect on a broader societal failure to create a context of meaning and connection that makes life worth living.”
- Institutional evil: “Criminally negligent pharmaceutical companies and market forces pushed for fast and cheap answers to pain. Unethical physicians fueled the early rise of opioids, along with the actions of a family pharmaceutical dynasty whose name now adorns a wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York ”
- Technology: “Technology is one of the powerful forces shaping how and why we get addicted. We have, because of technology, control over our environments and bodies in ways we never have had before. But this increased control in some areas means a loss of control in others. While addiction is characterized by a loss of control, it often begins in our attempts to gain ”
- The pervasiveness of addiction: “The question for each of us is not whether we are addicted but how we are addicted, and to what. Denial of the existence of addiction in your life is not a mark of moral accomplishment but a sign of ”
Addiction Nation points us toward healing from the ravages of addiction and toward a spirituality sturdy enough to sate our deepest longings. “While the opioid epidemic is new, we can still turn to the old virtues of faith, hope, and love to guide us through,” King says. “The fact remains that we are all humans in need of grace and a new life in resurrection.”
Addiction Nation Book Launch Party
June 11, Restoration Cafe 5-7 p.m.
Appetizers will be provided starting at 5 p.m. Drinks will be available for purchase at the bar. King will share a bit about his book around 6 p.m.
About the Author
Timothy McMahan King is a writer, nonprofit professional, and the owner of Vagabond Consulting. He has worked as a community organizer in Chicago, a chief strategy officer with Sojourners, and currently serves as a consultant for the Center for Action and Contemplation. King’s work has been published in Christianity Today, Sojourners, and other venues, and he has been interviewed by ABC, the BBC, TIME, CNN, and the Daily Beast. A graduate of North Park University with degrees in theology and philosophy, King lives with his wife, Hannah, in Manchester.