Is Dopesick Based on a True Story?

Dopesick: Dopesick is a Danny Strong-created American drama miniseries found on Hulu. The eight-episode series, which premiered on October 13, 2021, and ended on November 17, 2021, was based on Beth Macy’s nonfiction book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America.

Reviewers were generally enthusiastic about the show, and they had a lot of nice things to say about the acting, particularly from stars Kaitlyn Dever and Michael Keaton. Keaton won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, one of fourteen nominations for the series.

Other actors nominated included Dever, Poulter, Sarsgaard, Stuhlbarg, Winningham, and Winningham. The 79th Golden Globe Award, the 28th Screen Actors Guild Award, and the 12th Critics’ Choice Television Award were all presented to Keaton for his work as a lead actor.

American drama miniseries Dopesick
American drama miniseries Dopesick

Is Dopesick a true story?

Mostly. The journalist Beth Macy, who has written extensively about the opioid crisis in Appalachia, drew inspiration for her limited series on Hulu from her nonfiction book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America.

Executive producer Danny Strong had set up his opioid addiction project at 20th Television as Macy was shopping around for offers in Hollywood. They met for the first time in Chicago and instantly knew they had to work together to give Strong’s scripts more realism.

They did a lot of research during production to make the show seem real. They brought in people from rural areas who suffer from opioid addiction. A doctor who had struggled with OxyContin addiction opened up to them about his ordeal.

Macy explained that “the show needed to feel as real as possible” because they were “documenting the crimes of Purdue Pharma.” Any attempt that didn’t have an authentic feel would fail. However, Strong claims that several characters in Dopesick are fabricated and that their stories are composites of those of multiple real people.

The series takes a firm stance against the Sackler family, who control the company Purdue Pharma which produces OxyContin. They are typically portrayed as villainous antagonists who care little about addicts or the communities they’ve ravaged.

Dopesick, available on Hulu, also depicts a law enforcement and regulatory system that is powerless in the face of the Sacklers’ and Purdue Pharma’s immense financial, legal, and lobbying resources.

However, the Sacklers insist they did nothing wrong. NPR’s addiction correspondent Brian Mann said that the show simplifies the real-life story in ways that can make for more compelling TV drama. Dopesick, Mann said, “can bring a kind of moral throughline that often feels pretty satisfying” because of the fictionalized nature of the story.

It seems unlikely that corporations or their leaders involved in the opioid business will be held accountable, Mann continued, citing his experience visiting communities in West Virginia and Ohio devastated by the public health crisis.

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Is Michael Keaton’s character based on a real doctor?

Michael Keaton stars as Dr. Samuel Finnix, a hardworking physician in a remote Virginia mining town who a pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma salesman pressures to start prescribing the painkiller OxyContin.

As his patients became dependent on the drug, Finnix became dependent on it, beginning his journey through addiction and recovery. Though Keaton doesn’t exist, the experiences of many real-life doctors inspired Finnix’s narrative.

To fit more true stories into the show, Strong suggested creating composite characters. “By making up a story, I wouldn’t have to be constrained by the actual events of anyone’s life. No limit was placed on the number of examples I could use. If I worked hard enough, I might be able to reach a higher, more universal truth.”

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