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Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict [Kindle Edition]

Joshua Lyon
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $24.99
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Hachette Book Group

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Book Description

This compelling, honest book investigates the growing epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse among today's Generation Rx. Through gripping profiles and heartbreaking confessions, this memoir dares to uncover the reality--the addiction, the withdrawal, and the recovery--of this newest generation of pill poppers.

Joshua Lyon was no stranger to substance abuse. By the time he was seventeen, he had already found sanctuary in pot, cocaine, Ecstasy, and mushrooms--just to name a few. Ten years later, on assignment for Jane magazine, he found himself with a two-inch-thick bottle of Vicodin in his hands and only one decision to make: dispose of the bottle or give in to his curiosity. He chose the latter. In a matter of weeks he'd found his perfect drug.

In the early half of this decade, purchasing painkillers without a doctor was as easy as going online and checking the spam filter in your inbox. The accessibility of these drugs--paired with a false perception of their safety--contributed to their epidemic-like spread throughout America's twenty-something youth, a group dubbed Generation Rx. Pill Head is Joshua Lyon's harrowing and bold account of this generation, and it's also a memoir about his own struggle to recover from his addiction to painkillers.

The story of so many who have shared this experience--from discovery to addiction to rehabilitation--Pill Head follows the lives of several young people much like Joshua and dares to blow open the cultural phenomena of America's newest pill-popping generation. Marrying the journalist's eye with the addict's mind, Joshua takes readers through the shocking and often painful profiles of recreational users and suffering addicts as they fight to recover. Pill Head is not only a memoir of descent, but of endurance and of determination. Ultimately, it is a story of encouragement for anyone who is wrestling to overcome addiction, and anyone who is looking for the strength to heal.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For a Jane magazine article, Lyon bought Vicodin illegally over the Internet. After devouring the painkillers he immediately ordered more, his journalistic research turning into a full-fledged addiction. Lyon had company in his opiate abuse—more than 33 million Americans have used prescription painkillers nonmedically, he notes. The seven million currently abusing Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, et al., are more than those who use cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy and meth combined. As Lyon researched his book—and fed his continuing addiction—he explored the latest permutation of the American drug culture, one that has snared everyone from doctors and schoolkids to grandmothers on social security. Lyon interpolates memoir segments between interviews with experts and profiles of other abusers. The fact that he also strongly advocates certain policy and treatment strategies adds another element to an already broad approach. The resulting swirl of characters, story lines and perspectives at first makes it difficult to find a narrative thread. Yet Lyon writes powerfully about his own experiences as a young, troubled gay man in New York City, and it's this human story that stays with the reader. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Joshua Lyon preferred opiates, America's fastest growing addiction, and in this enlightening and harrowing pill by pill tour, he maps the secret trades that are taking place in every workplace, gym, bar, and neighborhood. With Pill Head, he demonstrates a crafty addict's ability to rationalize illicit pleasure, and a shrewd journalist's sense to doubt the long-term prospects of artificial narcotic happiness."—Michael Stein, author of The Addict: One Patient, One Doctor, One Year

"Pill Head is the perfect combination of informative and deeply personal; alarming and even sad. I wanted to hug Joshua Lyon after reading this. Anyone who has ever taken prescription medication recreationally should read this book. It's an eye-opener and it's not pretty, and it will speak to every single person who picks it up."—Lesley Arfin, author of Dear Diary

Lyon writes powerfully about his own experiences as a young, troubled gay man in New York City, and it's this human story that stays with the reader.—Publishers Weekly

As real as it gets.—Kirkus

The daring and honest PILL HEAD digs far deeper than the average memoir about addiction. With precision and uncommon empathy, Joshua Lyon exposes the facts about painkillers and those who abuse them; he also fearlessly reveals his own intense, often frightening story. PILL HEAD is a terrific book.—Scott Heim, author of We Disappear and Mysterious Skin

Product Details

  • File Size: 423 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (July 7, 2009)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,205 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What book were they reading ? July 29, 2009
After reading all these reviews I bought Pill Head straight away. I guess it is true there is no accounting for taste. A recovering addict myself, I read lots of books about addiction. This one reads like a series of routine cheap magazine pieces strung together. Much of the time the process is glamorized, except when the addict hits bottom. There is nearly no introspection, no motivation, no attempt to discover why all these addicts are taking these drugs. It is simply: she did this, and took that, then did this, etc. etc . A big disappointment.
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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Joshua Lyon, author of Pill Head, has penned a book that could not be more timely. Pill Head is part drug addled memoir and part thoughtful, investigative journalism; it is the story of a pill addict told with unflinching honesty, from first pill to detox. The book weaves together the stories of addicts, doctors, and governmental agents--effectively demonstrating how the lives and decisions of each are intertwined in America's new drug epidemic--prescription pills.

Lyon admits that prior to his Vicodin use, he had sampled plenty of goodies from the recreational drug grab bag; ecstasy, coke, mushrooms, marijuana and LSD. While he might have been a self professed "expert at escapism," he wasn't an addict. He was a young, experimental, gay man with social anxiety; living and working in New York City as an editor of the popular magazine Jane. He, not unlike thousands of people, partied just hard enough one night a week to be left incapacitated the rest of the weekend. But when he first got a hold of Vicodin, as research for a magazine assignment in 2003, all prior dabbling paled in sensation to this new wonder drug. That pivotal night, instead of flushing the pills as instructed by his editor, Lyon found himself defiantly taking three Vicodin and later professing out loud, "This is what I've been waiting for my whole life."

Lyon escorts us into the lives of other pill heads who were also entranced by that feeling, even as addiction led them into emotional, spiritual, physical and financial despair.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "On Vicodin" Joshua says, "I felt fantastic." November 15, 2009
By Jared
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Joshua Lyon fell in love with the euphoria produced by narcotics...but this book is much more...

Like me, Joshua was no stranger to experimenting with various drugs in his younger years. He drank and tried just about anything thrown his way. Also like me, the narcotics seemed to be just the right fit. They're safe right? Doctors prescribe them so the must be. It's a false assumption made by many abusers. He discusses how prescription drugs offer this false sense of security and safety and he even presents a very nice explanation of the pharmacology of these drugs that impressed even this pharmacist- obviously he'd done his homework. Also he demonstrates how easy these drugs are to obtain.

Joshua takes us on his own journey through experimentation, addiction, and withdrawl- and visits the lives of some of some other folks at various stages of their use and abuse. Amazing how many times I found myself nodding my head, relating to the things he was saying and feeling.

The book kept my attention, entertained and educated me. After reading, I felt like I knew him personally- a true sign of a good memoir.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Therapeutic and Educational June 14, 2010
By L. Read
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I would love to thank Joshua Lyon for writing this. This book was a huge comfort and also confirmed so many of the things I have personally gone through, researched, wondered and felt. I would like to read a book about Emily's story as well! Some of her quotes felt as if they were echoed from my own mind. I am already going through and highlighting my favorite parts, and will definitely be reading it again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Not only is this book well written, it is very easy to read, entertaining, and informative. Joshua Lyon tells the research he did for the book from talking to the DEA, people he interviews, and professors and professionals in the pharmaceutical world. This would be a great book for a parent to read if their child has an addiction problem, a person who uses drugs occasionally, or a person thinking whether or not they have a problem. Such a great book I will read it more than once, and I usually do not do that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!!!! May 26, 2011
I purchased this as my first Kindle read, I was not sure how I would like reading on my Android phone, but I love it!!!! This book is amazing and an exact match to what had become my life as a result of serious pill addiction. His true account of the ravages of painkiller addiction and how they impact one's personal life was very refreshing as well as a little scary! Mr. Lyon does an incredible job with this book, I definitely recommend as a read not just for painkiller addicts, but readers of all variety alike.Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and thorough account of pill addiction! March 28, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There are a lot of memoirs out there about heroin, coke, and even meth addiction, but not a ton about pill addiction (yet). The phenomenon certainly isn't new (Valley of the Dolls and so on), but the pervasiveness of pill taking outside of the extremely rich bored housewives of the major cities, does seem to be quite new. Even when I was in high school (almost 15 years ago) there were tons of pills around at my house, my mom and dad were/are both on pain medication and others, but the thought never even crossed my mind to take their pills to get high, nor did it occur to any of my friends (but maybe I just had the wrong friends), I don't think any 15 or 16 year old today would be able to say the same without lying. For me, college was where I first started "hearing about it."

This memoir was fabulous for several reasons, and I love bullet points so here we go:

- Joshua Lyon managed to write a memoir without it being all about him, something amazing in its own right. That's because this book isn't just Joshua's memoir, it's also the story of those around him and their varied pill addictions. I think this adds a lot to the story and enables to reader to see the road to addiction for many characters, and just maybe see more of themselves in that.

- Joshua himself, he has a wonderful voice that allows the reader to breeze through the book. I'm a marathon reader so once I start a book, I don't put it down and I never give up before the ending, but I REALLY couldn't put this one down, it was just so well written, with wit and charisma. Joshua tells that he started taking pills in order to be more outgoing and less self conscious, but you would never know it from his writing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read, book is in excellent condition. Thank you
Published 26 days ago by lain
2.0 out of 5 stars An addiction memoir, or a product review?
Having had my own addiction to pain killers, once I ordered the book I could not wait for it to come, and when it did I was very excited to finally have the chance to read it... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Roz
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
its a great book and shipping was good also
Published 1 month ago by angelica
2.0 out of 5 stars Not surprising.
The only reason I gave this book two stars instead of one was because the writing style deemed it worthy of an additional star. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Alex Underwood
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't believe the "Fix Alls" that have been out there for close to 30...
Earlier chapters brought me to understand where the author had been and where he was coming from for the story behind the books title "Pill Head". Read more
Published 4 months ago by stacey kearns
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
A good read. Really described what that culture is all about . It's a one way street, alright, and some take it straight to death.
Published 5 months ago by d.gill
3.0 out of 5 stars an inside look into opiate addiction
I'm a clinical psychologist who has been working with clients that have problems substance abuse addiction for over 10 years. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jennifer May, Ph.D.
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read even if you have no interest in addiction.
The author is amazingly forthcoming. As a nondrug user with a junkie son I found this book a very educational read. The author is a fine writer and a wonderful personal historian. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Amy H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
amazing book , I was hooked from the beginning also a lot of neat statistics included in the book which helps.
Published 9 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book
This book was very informative for me. No I'm not a pill popper but I can relate to a lot of what it's about.
Published 11 months ago by Mary Jenkins
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