Tuesday, October 12, 2021

'Dopesick,' from book about Appalachia's opioid epidemic, makes TV debut tomorrow as eight-part Hulu miniseries

"Dopesick" premieres on Hulu Oct. 13
Former Roanoke Times reporter Beth Macy took a deep dive into Appalachia's opioid epidemic with her best-seller Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America. Now the story is making its television debut, as the first episode of premieres on Hulu tomorrow. 

The eight-part series, which stars award-winning actors such as Michael Keaton [the executive producer], Rosario Dawson and Peter Sarsgaard, "takes viewers to the epicenter of America's struggle with opioid addiction, from the boardrooms of [OxyContin makers] Purdue Pharma, to a distressed Virginia mining community, to the hallways of the Drug Enforcement Agency," according to IMDB.

The series premieres less than a month after a jury found the Sackler family of Purdue Pharma culpable for their role in perpetuating the opioid epidemic. Though the evidence presented was enough to force the Sacklers to give up ownership of the firm and pay $4.3 billion, Eric Eyre of Mountain State Spotlight notes that a federal judge blocked even more damning evidence from being included in the trial: a bipartisan 2018 congressional report that condemned major opioid distributors for dumping pills in West Virginia. Eyre, formerly of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, wrote his own account of the opioid crisis in the state in Death in Mud Lick.

The book was published in 2018.
Danny Strong, executive producer and writer of the Hulu series, said he wanted "to give Purdue and the Sacklers the trial that they never got . . . to show the crimes of this company that was micromanaged by [members of] this family," he told The Guardian's David Smith. "When people see the rampant criminal behavior, which is so egregious, so shocking, they will understand how this happened and then simultaneously that the institutions of government that are supposed to protect the public from a flagrantly criminal company like this failed. And they didn’t fail by accident."

Macy, also an executive producer on the series, hopes it will keep attention on a problem that has gotten worse during the pandemic. "We still have so much work to do," she told NPR's Michel Martin. Macy was the keynote speaker at "Covering Substance Abuse and Recovery," sponsored by Oak Ridge Associated Universities and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of The Rural Blog, in November 2019.

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