Light Up the Night

America’s Overdose Crisis and the Drug Users Fighting for Survival

A revelatory, moving narrative that offers a harrowing critique of the war on drugs from voices seldom heard in the conversation: drug users who are working on the front lines to reduce overdose deaths

“People always think recovery is either you’re completely abstinent or you’re in full chaotic use, and there is a world in between.”
—Jess Tilley, president of the New England Drug Users Union

Media coverage has established a clear narrative of the overdose crisis: In the 1990s, pharmaceutical corporations flooded America with powerful narcotics while lying about their risk; many patients developed addictions to prescription opioids; then, as access was restricted, waves of people turned to the streets and began using heroin and, later, the dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl.

But that’s not the whole story. It fails to acknowledge how the war on drugs has exacerbated the crisis and leaves out one crucial voice: that of drug users themselves.

Across the country, people who use drugs are organizing in response to a record number of overdose deaths. They are banding together to save lives and demanding equal rights. Set against the backdrop of the overdose crisis, Light Up the Night provides an intimate look at how users navigate the policies that criminalize them. It chronicles a rising movement that’s fighting to save lives, end stigma, and inspire commonsense policy reform.

Told through embedded reporting focused on two activists, Jess Tilley in Massachusetts and Louise Vincent in North Carolina, this is the story of the courageous people stepping in where government has failed. They are standing on the front lines of an underground effort to help people with addictions use drugs safely, reduce harms, and live with dignity.


Light Up the Night illuminates the controversial, complex topic of drug use and the American overdose crisis with power, conviction, and hope.”
Foreword Reviews
“An intimate portrait of the unsung activists who are doing what it actually takes to fight the overdose crisis.”
—Maia Szalavitz, author of Undoing Drugs and Unbroken Brain
“Profound, beautiful, and inspiring . . . this is a story everyone needs to hear.”
—Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream
“Lupick details the heroic efforts of everyday people fighting to save the lives of those deemed expendable. . . . [We] learn that failed policies, not drugs, are killing us. . . . Please read this book.”
—Dr. Carl Hart, author of Drug Use for Grown-Ups and High Price
“An extraordinary book and critical perspective.”
—Ryan Hampton, addiction recovery activist and author of American Fix and Unsettled
“A candid and vital look at the harm reduction method of addiction treatment on two drug users turned activists . . . the book’s greatest strength is the intimate portrait of two indomitable women who have dedicated their lives to helping others. A must-read for those on the front lines of the opioid crisis.”
Publishers Weekly
“Gripping, vividly told dispatches from the front lines of drug addiction. . . . A true antidote to the insanity of the drug war and to punitive approaches to human suffering.”
—Gabor Maté, MD, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts
“The war on drugs is a war on people—and the activists in this book are our people. I hope that their stories will inspire for years to come.”
—Monique Tula, executive director, National Harm Reduction Coalition
“A masterful, propulsive book about the overdose crisis, full of heart, humanity, and hope.”
—Beth Macy, author of Dopesick
“One of the world’s most knowledgeable writers about drug use, Lupick weaves together user narratives to show how our drug policies and treatment systems are flawed.”
—Ben Westhoff, author of Fentanyl, Inc.
“Rather than parrot the talking points of politicians or police, Lupick has given a megaphone to people who use drugs. This book offers invaluable advice on the overdose crisis.”
—Sean Baker, writer and director, The Florida Project
“Potent, illuminating reportage on a public health crisis of epidemic proportions.”
Kirkus Reviews

News and Reviews

The Urbanist

Listen to an interview with author Travis Lupick about Light Up the Night on The Urbanist podcast.

Publishers Weekly

Read a review of Light Up the Night in Publishers Weekly.

Goodreads Reviews