The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention breaks the opioid epidemic into three waves. The first wave began with the introduction of OxyContin—the highly addictive painkiller made by Purdue Pharma and introduced in 1996—and an increase in prescribing opioids. Spiked opioid addiction rates quickly followed.
A significant rise in heroin overdose deaths marked the second wave in 2010. A third wave followed in 2013 with the sharp jump in overdose deaths connected to synthetic opioids, especially fentanyl, according to the CDC. From 1999 to 2019, close to 500,000 people died due to opioid overdoses.
Hulu’s 2021 drama miniseries “Dopesick” focused on Purdue Pharma pushing sales reps to convince doctors the OxyContin wasn't addictive despite knowledge to the contrary. The Food and Drug Administration backed Purdue, thereby setting the stage for a drug epidemic that took a hold of the nation. A judge in 2021 approved a deal to dissolve Purdue as a business; the Sackler family, which runs the company, agreed to pay $4.5 billion in a bankruptcy settlement. Many who struggled with opioid addiction or lost a loved one due to OxyContin addiction, have voiced objections to the fact that the Sacklers will likely remain one of the wealthiest families in the United States.
To shed light on this manufactured drug epidemic, Zinnia Health compiled a list of 10 documentary films and docuseries that explore the opioid epidemic.