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Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,062 ratings  ·  84 reviews
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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 7th 2009 by Hachette Books (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  1,062 ratings  ·  84 reviews

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Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir

I hate being disappointed by books. In the case of this one, that's what happened. Severe disappointment.

I'll admit, I have a thing for drug addiction memoirs. I find them fascinating--it's a sneak peak into a taboo world where I've chosen not to walk. At the same time, I've watched a lot of my friends and family members jump on trains bound for this taboo world, so I guess I feel like these memoirs give me some sort of insight into their hearts and minds.

That said, this wasn't one of the bet
Dec 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Even though this book was written by a friend of a friend of mine, life got in the way of me reading it when it first came out, and so I picked it up when I saw it in an airport before Christmas.

For a book about addiction, it's a fun read. Josh Lyon keeps a sense of humor as he combines his own experiences as an addict with relevant research about opiate addition. He's not just echoing other people's research: he filters the perspectives of the scientists and the government agencies and even th
Jen from Quebec :0)
Huh! This book was a great read and also very educational. The author, Josh, works for 'Jane' magazine and comes up with a story idea- to see just how easy it is to get drugs online. His magazine even gives him 600 bucks to buy these drugs! Inevitably, he cannot resist taking the bottles of Xanex and Vicodin he acquires online and thus, an opiate addiction was born. He spends the next few years ingesting more milligrams of painkillers than I thought humanly possible, but explains the WHYs of it ...more
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Honest and Casually Reckless

As a therapist who lost her 33 yr. old daughter to an overdose of Oxycodone, I could fully relate to this story. Well written and well researched, and presented in a mix of addicted lives, self disclosure, and excellent research, the book becomes a page turner. Unfortunately, my daughter never wanted to quit, and at the end of her journey did not want to live either. The problem is not the pain killers our pharmaceutical companies have provided to society. I have a ch
Aug 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book annoyed me and failed as a substance-abuse fable because Lyon never really hit anything close to "rock bottom", and even his obligatory final chapter in rehab shows him not really caring if he cleans up or not. Far from a cautionary tale, Pill Head mostly just passes along the wisdom that it's expensive to be addicted to pills in New York, and that if you take enough, your friends will be disappointed with you. Blarg. Watch an episode of Intervention if you really want to see how far p ...more
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my daughters book and being as she told me she didn't enjoy it that much I was almost scared to begin reading it. Glad I did though, I found it brutally honest and as an addict myself (not pills) I found it hit very close to home for me in the whys? of why addicts use. It started off strong but then bogged down which really depressed me but I continued on and it picked right back up and never let go. I felt a close connection to Joshua while reading this book and always count myself luck ...more
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Pill Head is more than just a memoir of addiction, it is an investigation into contemporary prescription drug abuse. While I found Joshua Lyon's account of his own twenty-year struggle with drug addiction compelling, it felt redundant at times. Many parts of Lyon's personal story were quite interesting. However, sometimes the plot seemed to drag out, with Lyon engaged in the same self-destructive behavior for weeks and months on end. The most frustrating part, was that he never seemed to learn a ...more
Adrienne Urbanski
May 08, 2013 rated it liked it
This book held my interest, but the momentum lagged in some parts. The scientific information was a good inclusion, but it became difficult to stay focused through it. I also really wish Lyon had included more of his own story in it, I felt that his demons were never fully explored within the book. I wanted to hear more about his repressed memories, dark family secrets, and questionable boyfriends. These topics seemed to not be entirely excavated. Also,the fact that he began writing the book whi ...more
May 07, 2011 rated it liked it
The book I bought had a different cover than the one shown here. I seen it on the shelf at our local bookstore and had to have it. It sounded so promising and I love a good drug memoir. However, this book most definetely did not turn out to be what I thought it would be. I had a very hard time getting into the book, however about 1/3 into the book it finally picked up for me and I devoured it. This book was more research than memoir. There was a lot of techinal terms and such that was hard for m ...more
Sep 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hooray! An addiction memoir! One of my favorite genres!!

And honestly, after a run of middle school problem novels, I was pretty pleased to read this one! Being addicted to Vicodin is less painful than losing your best friend/family to divorce/first love. haha.

He combines his own experiences with some pretty good facts about painkiller addiction and I left with a more well-rounded sense of how we become addicted, why I like them, and why quitting them is tough.

This is an excellent fast read, an
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is so very important because its subjects' pill addictions can often be sensationalized and stereotyped in mainstream news. Joshua Lyon shows us what being an addict is really like without judgement. Due to the fact that Joshua can relate, his struggle is very real and is the most compelling story in the mix. I loved that it wasn't preachy AT ALL or anything resembling self-help. Joshua's story is a truthful and raw, I absolutely loved it! ...more
Emily Crow
I liked this book when the author was describing his personal travails as a prescription pain killer addict. Even though I, personally, don't get it. I can understand going overboard with speed, booze or benzos. But Vicodin? I had it once, legally prescribed after a minor surgery, and it just made me feel like my head was packed with cotton. Nothing I'd want to repeat! Still, we are all different, in our temptations and our body chemistry. Lyon responded *very* positively to painkillers, and I c ...more
Wayne Fitzpatrick
Oct 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Through his own experiences and the experiences of other subjects, Joshua Lyon traces the painful history of his drug abuse and his many attempts at sobriety. He also goes into detail about the drugs and what they can do to the physiology of those who take them. Lyons also goes into detail about his professional and personal lives by describing how his addictions affected both his personal and public life. Lyons also describes the easy access some people have to over the counter as well as stree ...more
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really wish I would have Pill Head this while working with substance abuse patients or had it assigned in one of my Psych or Counseling courses. Pill Head goes beneath the surface of theories and discusses the actual experiences people have with medication, and the extreme measures some take to just live with their addiction. It provides a raw, open story of how the author along with other people-in all walks of life-became addicted to prescribed medication.

The book begins with Josh working o
Suzanne Schimpeler
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
After reading Pill Head by Joshua Lyon, it really opened my eyes to how much our society abuses pharmaceuticals and many other drugs. This book is about a man living in New York who has an addiction to painkillers and later on has to go to rehab. But not only was he addicted to painkillers, so were every single one of his friends. This book shows a lot about an addicts life and that eventually one day the addict will have to stop whether it's their choice or not. This book is a story of encourag ...more
Jun 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I enjoy bad-behavior memoirs in the same way that one can't help but slow down and stare at the scene of a car wreck---I'm curious, appalled, and smugly grateful that it isn't me. Plus, me being a child of the late 70s and early 80s *cough*, none of the bad behavior is exactly foreign territory. Joshua Lyon's account of his prescription drug addiction offered a lot more than the usual reminiscences of highs, lows, and struggles with rehab, though; Mr. Lyon is a journalist and he used the story o ...more
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed parts of this book. I emphasize "parts". I feel like this book would have been better served as two separate books, at least two separate sections, like an Act 1 and 2 ?! The whole book felt very disjointed. The author moves around in his auto-biographical timeline far too much. He also rotates in stories of other "Pill Head's" and the crazy things they did to keep their drug addiction going. Every once in awhile he will throw into the mix some interesting facts or interviews fr ...more
Meagan Houle
When you imagine the average pain killer addict, you probably picture an overburdened housewife with not much excitement in her life...or maybe you picture Nurse Jackie, who knows? Either way, Josh is not the type of person you imagine when you think of pain killer addicts. He's a bit of a wild child (though his book is far from a celebration of that lifestyle), seemingly too interested in coke and alcohol to bother with pills. Yet, he is drawn into that world, and here is his fascinating journe ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Pill Head wasn't as great of a book as I thought it was going to be. It was less a memoir of the author than a journalistic approach similar to the way he might have approached writing an article for Jane magazine. "Ok, I'm the author, and I had this experience. Also, these folks over here, let's write about them for a while, they had this other experience. Now what about these other guys? Them too!" It really was teetering between a memoir and an anthropological study... It really could have be ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it liked it
What I loved most about this book was the blunt, brutally honest perspective of the author. He painted what seemed to be an honest picture of his struggles regarding relationships, shyness, social anxiety, and our country's drug culture. The end result was an engaging, compelling human story that stuck with me as a reader. Other strengths included the interviews he conducted and his straightforward retelling of events. I think the biggest weakness was that I needed more closure than the book pro ...more
Apr 16, 2012 rated it liked it
A strange mix of straightforward statistics, stories from current and former addicts and the author's own battles with prescription-drug addiction. His sexual exploits take up too much of the narrative and could scare off potential readers who might otherwise benefit from the information included. His jokes often fall flat and his smugness is a major irritant but, to his credit, he identifies the key question that decades of physicians and regulators have failed to address: how does one separate ...more
David Ward
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, drugs
Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict by Joshua Lyons (Hyperion Books 2009) (616.86+/-). This is a gripping memoir of one type of drug addict: “The Pill Head.” I had a poor understanding of the drama involved in the Pillhead's dope routine. Pain pills have never been my drug of choice (luckily?). It appears to be a lot of trouble to maintain a pill addiction. Besides, all of the great old pills that were ubiquitous in the seventies and the eighties are gone. Quaaludes, black beauties ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it
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K a r e n
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Another memoir about harsh reality! Woot! Pill Head is very insightful, very objective, and a very interesting account of Lyon's pain killer addicted life. Pill Head adds more on that with other points of addicted teens/adults and builds from everypoint - to getting pills, and to groups on awareness. The story he tells is straightforward and depicts his troubled adolescence/mostly adulthood with his drug usage. It's not just about painkillers - it's a very harsh society depicted with controversi ...more
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting read. I read it in a total of about 2 days because I found it so easily read-able. It read half biography, half documentary-style prose. I learned a great deal about the pill society. I would have liked to have seen more about the damages of using pills long-term (besides the obvious - becoming addicted and landing in a hellish rehab ordeal). What effects does is have on the body and brain?

Otherwise, Lyon did a great job bringing you into his own head, and his prose w
Laura Lauderback
Mar 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult, non-fiction, drugs
I only read about the 1st 2 chapters in this book to realized it isn't really my cup of tea. The author annoyed me and it seems like he used drugs or his writing to get drugs to better his career. Ended up getting addicted and I am sort of annoyed I enabled him further by purchasing his book. Perhaps it would have gotten better, but with so many books out there I want to read, I didn't want to waste my time with reading the rest of this one.

One more note - it also wasn't as personal as I would
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I could not put the book down! I serendipitously picked it up and found myself engrossed. What I found so engaging is Lyon's ability to write as an addict but then switch his focus and use his journalism background to discuss overall epidemic of pharmaceutical pill abuse. I would recommend to anyone looking to further their knowledge on the causes of addiction, the mind-set of an addicted person, and understanding the recovery process- it is not an all encompassing academic piece, but the reader ...more
Shannyn B
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have read almost every drug addiction memoir out there, and this has been one of the best. Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in the US, and Lyon sprinkles statistics and doctors' opinions, as well as other addicts' stories of pill abuse and recovery, throughout his own story of descending into addiction. The only thing I would have liked to see the author add to the book is a more expansive section on his attempt at recovery in rehab. Those are usually the most inspiring parts of these ...more
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Having developed a strong interest in memoirs and novels on addiction, self-injury, eating disorders, and other teen/YA issues years ago, I will say this book is near the top of the list of about 50 or so books I have read on the topic. Very engaging, and an emotional journey you can't stop following; you aren't able to decide weather you despise the author for being the delinquent, black mark on society that he is not afraid to admit he is, or if you secretly love him and his story for being so ...more
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
3 1/2 stars! As a fan of both Jane magazine and addiction memoirs, I am surprised that I didn't hear about this book when it first came out. I always enjoyed Joshua Lyon's work in Jane. This book covers his 6 years of pill addiction, and in an interesting twist, admits his addiction began while on assignment for Jane, researching online pharmacies. Lyon also follows the lives of a few other addicts and adds research from doctors, drug specialists, government studies, agencies and experts. This i ...more
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