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Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict Paperback – Bargain Price, July 13, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; Reprint edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401310222
  • ASIN: B0048BPEOY
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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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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