The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention divides 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 the prescription of opioids. Opioid addiction rates soon followed.
A significant increase in heroin overdose deaths marked the second wave in 2010. A third wave followed in 2013 with the strong jump in overdose deaths connected to synthetic opioids, specifically fentanyl, according to the CDC. From 1999 to 2019, nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses.
Hulu’s 2021 drama miniseries “Dopesick” focused on Purdue Pharma pushing sales reps to convince doctors that OxyContin was not addictive despite knowledge to the contrary. The Food and Drug Administration backed Purdue, setting the stage for a drug epidemic that gripped the nation. A judge in 2021 approved a deal to dissolve Purdue as a company; the Sackler family, which runs the company, agreed to pay $4.5 billion in a bankruptcy settlement. Many who have struggled with opioid addiction or lost a loved one to OxyContin addiction have voiced objections that the Sacklers will likely remain one of America’s wealthiest families. .
To shed light on this manufactured drug epidemic, Zinnia Health has compiled a list of 10 documentary films and docuseries that explore the opioid epidemic.