‘Dopesick’ Uses Drama, and Michael Keaton, to Give the Opioid Crisis a Human Face
Sitting on your couch, remote in hand, you could select a drama about a bullying, obscenely affluent family that is riven by internal strife but revels in asserting its wealth and power, even if people die. Or you can watch “Succession.”
Unlike that HBO show, Hulu’s new eight-part series “Dopesick” doesn’t offer laughs at the outlandish behavior of its titans of industry. But the bigger distinction is that “Dopesick,” while a scripted drama, is about a real-life family’s alleged role in creating one of the biggest public health catastrophes in American history: the opioid crisis.
Based largely on the 2018 book by Beth Macy, the show seeks to dramatize how members of the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma, aided by lax regulations, pushed OxyContin onto the public starting in the 1990s. OxyContin’s introduction is now viewed as the start of the opioid epidemic, which has killed more than 500,000 people nationwide and addicted millions more.
The Sacklers say they bear no responsibility for the crisis and are likely never to face trial, owing to the sweeping protections built into a bankruptcy settlement that dissolved Purdue Pharma last month. That settlement made the timing of the new series all the more important to its producers.