Having first been released back in 2021 on Disney Plus and Hulu (in the US), hard-hitting factual drama Dopesick is now also available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK.


The series eight-part series focuses on the disturbing scandal surrounding Purdue Pharma's promotion and release of pain relief drug OxyContin, and stars Michael Keaton (The Flash), Rosario Dawson (Ahsoka) and Will Poulter (Guardians of the Galaxy).

The show largely uses composite, fictional characters to focus on different perspectives over a long timeline, telling the stories of patients, executives, doctors and sales reps.

It was highly lauded for its efforts at both the Primetime Emmys and the Golden Globes upen release, and will now be reaching an even wider audience thanks to its arrival on BBC iPlayer.

Read on for insight into the Dopesick true story from creator Danny Strong, including his explanation on why fictional composite characters were used instead of real individuals.

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Dopesick true story: How accurate is the drama series?

Michael Keaton stars in Dopesick
Michael Keaton stars in Dopesick Hulu/YouTube

Dopesick explains how the now-bankrupt company Purdue Pharma mislabelled the powerful painkiller Oxycontin, claiming it was not likely to be abused, with the company's sales team saying "less than one per cent" of users would become addicted.

In reality, the opioid was highly addictive, meaning its unnecessary use for moderate pain – which had been encouraged by sales reps for the company – proved utterly disastrous and left the lives of many people in ruin.

Dopesick creator Danny Strong explained that the show was required to accurately depict the key events in the development and marketing of Oxycontin in order to minimise the risk of legal backlash.

"We had several Disney lawyers go through every script with a fine tooth comb," he told RadioTimes.com. "The Sackler family constantly threatens people with lawsuits and litigation as a bullying tactic.

"They actually never sue, but they constantly threaten it. So we had, like I said, a team of lawyers and researchers going through the scripts to make sure that they were factually accurate in their portrayal of the key events."

A vital resource in this was a book by Beth Macy titled Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company That Addicted America, which was first published in 2018.

Will Poulter in Dopesick in a grey suit looking surprised
Will Poulter in Dopesick. Hulu

The non-fiction work focuses particularly on the perspective of small-town residents, such as those in the mining community of Appalachia, who were targeted by Purdue for their high quantity of manual labour workers (thus prone to injury).

While several of the main characters in Dopesick are fictional, that isn't to say their stories aren't to be taken seriously, as Strong explained all of them are amalgamations of real people affected by the opioid crisis.

"If I made these characters composite characters, I [could] get way more of these anecdotes into these arcs with fewer characters and get more truthful stories into the show," Strong explained to NPR.

"By fictionalising, I wouldn't be stuck to the truth of one person's life. I could use as many anecdotes as I wanted. I could achieve a more universal truth; a higher truth."

Additionally, there are some real figures featured in the show, most notably the Sackler family – owners of Purdue Pharma – who appear in segments set behind-the-scenes at the company.

On the other side, we see depictions of Rick Mountcastle and Randy Ramseyer, who led the US Justice Department's investigation into Oxycontin and Purdue Pharma, fighting for justice as the crisis reached a desperate point.

Will Poulter as Billy in Dopesick, wearing a suit and sat at a conference
Antony Platt/Hulu Antony Platt/Hulu

Fortunately, they did succeed in exposing the true nature of the drug, with Purdue Pharma later admitting it had "knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet" doctors administering the medication "without a legitimate medical purpose".

Purdue has reached a multi-billion dollar settlement for the disaster, pleading guilty to three criminal charges, with a recent development confirming the company will be dissolved and restructured as a public benefit organisation dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis.

A message on the company's website homepage reads: "Purdue’s Plan of Reorganisation (“Plan”) received bankruptcy court approval. The Plan will deliver billions in value to communities across the country to fund programs specifically for abatement of the opioid crisis. Substantially all of Purdue’s assets will be transferred to a new company with a public-minded mission."

The Sackler family have always denied any personal responsibility for the opioid addiction crisis, claiming that they “acted lawfully and ethically”.

Dopesick is available to stream on BBC iPlayer and Disney Plus now. Sign up to Disney Plus from £4.99 a month.


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