Mandatory Reads: ‘As Needed For Pain’ Addresses Opioid Addiction for Everyone (Even Successful, Functioning People)
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. While the stereotype of a drug addict conjures a slum-dwelling, unemployed vagrant, the fact is that people from all walks of life fall victim to substance abuse. In the new memoir As Needed for Pain, former Details magazine editor in chief Dan Peres shows readers what opioid addiction looks like for a young, upper-class, tuxedo-clad Jewish man.
Peres grew up in Pikesville, Maryland (“the Jewish ghetto of the Baltimore suburbs”), playing tennis at a country club with his grandmother and attending posh bat and bar mitzvahs. His first introduction to Vicodin was in his 20s, following a cartwheeling injury incurred while trying to impress women (we kid you not). What started as an instruction from a doctor to take one or two Vicodin every four hours turned into a 60-pill-a-day habit that later evolved to include Roxycodone.
“I swallowed hundreds of pills a week without giving it a second thought. It was business as usual – as normal for me as eating three meals a day is for most people,” he writes. “I needed a handful of pills in the morning the way most people needed a latte.”
The lengths Peres went to in order to procure his drug of choice became increasingly outrageous, from faking back pain in the emergency room and rotating between multiple physicians’ offices for prescriptions to dumpster-diving for discarded medication and driving to Tijuana to purchase 1,000 pills. He once even stole a doctor’s DEA number and filled a prescription in his dead grandfather’s name. And yet, he was able to keep his addiction under wraps from friends, family, and even his own wife.
“The upside of being addicted to pain pills is that there is no discernible evidence of use, at least not at first glance,” he writes. “Booze reeks. Weed stinks. Coke leaves residue around the nose and makes your jaw dance like you have a mouthful of Pop Rocks. Pills are clean and odorless and can be taken without drawing much attention to yourself.”
But the side effects started to add up: he lost his libido, vomited in the trash can at work, nodded off while conducting a job interview, and reamed out hotel staff for stealing his pills (which he later found in his suitcase, where he’d hid them).
It took seven years, and multiple failed attempts to stay clean, until he finally quit, motivated in part by the impending arrival of his first son. Recovery is not the focus of this memoir, however; in fact, it gets short shrift. Peres uses drugs right up until the penultimate page of the book.
Peres does spend ample time discussing his ascent in the magazine publishing world, which aspiring journalists might find interesting. He also fixates on schmoozing with celebrities and features cameos of famous people in unusual situations (hello, Mike Tyson hanging out on a roof with pigeons), that don’t move the story forward, though his fanboying-turned-friendship with magician David Copperfield is an unexpected twist.
Peres is a compelling writer, but without much backstory regarding the root of his addiction, it’s hard for the reader to care whether or not he gets – and stays – clean. With little introspection, it’s near impossible to understand why someone who seemed to have it all subjected himself to such self-destruction. Whether or not this was a story that needed to be told – or just one conveniently timed to hit a literary market craving opioid addiction stories – is up to the reader to decide.
The trouble with many addiction memoirs (and, we suspect, addiction in general) is that they can become tedious. Get high, come down, seek next high, rinse and repeat. Take away the daredevil antics, hotel room trashing, and absurd scenarios that addicts find themselves in, and you have a pretty repetitive, isolative lifestyle. That said, some memoirs about addiction and recovery do a better job than others at enveloping you in the addict’s descent and journey back to wellness. In addition to As Needed for Pain, we recommend the following books.
Author Photo: Harrison Hill
'Permanent Midnight' by Jerry Stahl
'Beautiful Boy' by David Sheff
'Smacked' by Eilene Zimmerman
'The Night of the Gun' by David Carr
'A Million Little Pieces' by James Frey
'Strung Out' by Erin Khar
'Lit' by Mary Karr
'The Recovering' by Leslie Jamison
'Dry' by Augusten Burroughs