Does The Dopesick Series Accurately Portray America’s Opioid Addiction Crisis?

Does The Dopesick Series Accurately Portray America’s Opioid Addiction Crisis?

For the last few decades, victims of big pharmaceutical companies suffered privately and struggled to rid themselves of addictions from their doctor-approved drugs. A recent hit series, Dopesick, has brought the opioid crisis to streaming services, TVs, and their millions of viewers. More people than ever are aware of the opioid addiction crisis that has burned through America, killing over 800,000 people since 1999.

The show’s popularity has caused many viewers to wonder if the staggering crisis pictured on-screen accurately reflects reality. It’s easy to get drawn into the compelling story and emotional portrayal of events. Understandably, viewers want to know how much they can rely on Dopesick’s interpretation of events. As with many things in the world of television, the true answer lies in somewhat of a gray area.

The Historical Background of Dopesick

Dopesick portrays the deception by pharmaceutical companies in convincing doctors across the country to prescribe dangerous, addictive pain relief medications such as OxyContin under the belief that they were doing what was best for their patients. Pharmaceutical companies, the show asserts, deliberately targeted demographics known to suffer from chronic pain and injuries, such as workers in mining towns.

We may never know the true motivations behind the manufacturing and distribution of opioid pain relievers. However, we can put some pieces of the puzzle together based on the thousands of lawsuits that followed.

Purdue Pharma’s owners, for example, were initially ordered to pay a $4.5 billion settlement to resolve litigation as a result of their involvement in creating the opioid crisis. That decision was overturned in December of 2021 to avoid granting Purdue’s owners the legal shield against future litigation.1 Reactions to this decision make it very clear that the families of prescription opioid victims hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the deaths or struggles of their loved ones.

Dramatization and Personal Appeal

Perhaps, however, anger toward the perpetrators of the opioid addiction crisis isn’t the most important emotional reaction that Dopesick generates in viewers.

The show is indeed “based on a true story.”  However, it has all the dramatization and fictional characterizations necessary to hook the audience’s attention and create empathy for fictionalized characters. However, the liberties taken by the show’s creators don’t necessarily detract from its intended message. After all, capturing viewers’ attention and getting them to relate to and feel compassion for victims of the opioid crisis only brings positive, much-needed attention to a group of people who badly need help and love.

Millions of people got prescriptions for OxyContin and other opiate pain relievers from their well-meaning doctors during the 1990s and 2000s. Many of those patients developed addictions to their medication and deteriorated with time, eventually finding themselves jobless, homeless, or dead from an overdose. And who were the people who sought care from their doctors for pain? They weren’t drug-seekers or substance abusers. They were everyday people – miners, teachers, parents, neighbors, or even your family members. One of them could have been you.

The Opioid Addiction Crisis is Real, and Treatment is Available

Today, over one million people in the United States, and 16 million worldwide, suffer from opioid addiction. Every year, opiates claim the lives of 120,000 people. Shining a light on this issue reminds viewers that these aren’t just statistics everywhere. Behind every number is a real person and a family who loves them.

Even if Dopesick has fictionalized certain aspects and characters, the opioid addiction crisis is very real and has had devastating consequences. If you or your loved ones have felt its impacts, it’s vital to stop struggling in silence and seek help. Never before have the levels of empathy and compassion been higher or more visible for people struggling with opiate addiction.

If you’re in need, please reach out to Clear Life Recovery for help. We created our opiate addiction programs and the OxyContin addiction program with your unique needs in mind. Whether your addiction started the day your doctor signed the prescription pad or developed after recreational use, it doesn’t matter. We can help you achieve lifelong recovery in our full-service, judgment-free treatment center.