I remember a former friend in high school would sell her mom’s OxyContin pills at my high school. That was probably the first time I ever heard Oxy referenced. OxyContin has a turbulent history especially seen in John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight episode on Opioids. I discovered Dopesick while browsing through Hulu and while the series is harrowing, it’s well worth the watch.
Dopesick is based on a non-fiction book written by Beth Macy titled Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America. Dr. Samuel Finnix (played by Michael Keaton) is a doctor in the rural areas of Virginia. Finnix is targeted by Purdue Pharma sales rep, Billy Cutler (played by Will Poulter) who tells Finnix that OxyContin can help his patients who suffer injuries while working in the mines. Finnix is persuaded based on the fact that “less than 1% of users on OxyContin get addicted” even though OxyContin is an opioid. This is further from the truth as both Finnix and another patient, Betsy Mallum (played by Kaitlyn Dever) are addicted to Oxy. Besides following Finnix and his rural town, there’s the DEA investigating Purdue Pharma along with the lawsuit of how Purdue Pharma blatantly lied about what Oxy to make money.
I hope Kaitlyn Dever wins an award because her story was the most heartbreaking. She’s in the closet and she tells her parents she’s a lesbian and her father tells her to leave. It’s sad because it’s clear Betsy is trying to get off Oxy, however, Oxy and opioid use alter brain chemistry, so Betsy heavily struggles to remain clean. Michael Keaton also did a great job along with Will Poulter who’s a sales rep who wants to succeed under the shadow of his successful parents. The acting in this was heavy.
Dopesick also highlights Purdue Pharma and how evil they are. Most pharmaceutical companies are iffy at best, but Purdue Pharma sucks. It’s clear that the Sackler family knew about their drug, but they didn’t care. If that didn’t piss me off, what’s worse is Purdue Pharma blaming addicts for getting addicted and not the drug itself. Purdue Pharma are the worst and it sounds like the Sackler’s won’t be penalized for what damage they have done.
One thing Dopesick doesn’t touch on is where Oxy is at now. While OxyContin caused a majority of overdose deaths, it’s now cheaper Opioids like Heroin or Fentanyl that are keeping the Opioid crisis alive today. Heroin and Fentanyl are cheaper than Oxy is, so it’s often at the heart of overdose deaths. I felt Dopesick should have touched on this more.
I highly recommend watching Dopesick, but it’s a dark show. I hope Dopesick wins an award or two because it highlights the reality of living in rural America and how one company destroyed and keeps destroying small communities.