Episode 4 of Dopesick begins in 1997, a year after Oxy has been on the market. This drug is incredibly easy to get a high from, with our lawyers in 2004 narrating that all it takes is to crush up the pills and snort them for a bigger hit. Unfortunately Oxy is incredibly dangerous and ODs are becoming more and more frequent, typified by a group of kids that end up with one of their own passing out.
Betsy continues to slip further down the path of addiction too, scraping scraps of OxyContin for a drug dealer she’s becoming closely aligned to, Walt. In fact, she’s encouraged to drive down to Florida with him, where the doctors apparently don’t care.
Betsy initially refuses but the addiction is just too much and eventually she joins Walt for a trip down to get an Oxy fix. And it doesn’t take long before she gets her prescription.
Another person feeling the effects of Oxy addiction is Finnix, who continues to see his patients deteriorating almost as fast as he has. It’s been a year since we past saw him and our doctor is also addicted, stashing away pill bottles in his drawer.
All of this compounds toward a scene involving sleazy Richard Sackler, who revels in OxyContin’s success. Only, he’s obviously coming under fire because of its addictive tendencies and as this begins to spread further afield, he’s encouraged to try and combat this with more buzzworthy news.
So naturally, Richard finds an expert pedaling the idea of pseudo-addiction. Essentially this means the addiction symptoms a patient is feeling are actually that of torturous pain and they should just be given more pain relief to relieve them. It’s a dangerous rhetoric and it’s borderline insane.. .but exactly what Purdue Pharma are after. Sackler inevitably offers him a job and begins papering over the addiction as a sign of this pseudo-addiction.
In 2004 our lawyers, Randy and Rick, continue to run into roadblocks. The whole “less than 1% addiction” tagline is what they’re researching but the doctor responsible for the Porter Jick study in Boston isn’t picking up the phone. And that is a massive red flag.
With limited resources thanks to their funding being cut, Brownlee encourages his officers to press the Virginia State Police and the Fraud Unit to try and help.
Well, they soon learn that this “less than 1% article” was apparently published in one of the 1980’s New England Medical studies. But which one? They don’t know. Brilliant. So inevitably a large-scale operation gets underway, with the entire group sifting through all the copies from 1978-1994. And there’s not a single mention of it.
But yet, medical schools across the country and even Time magazine have mentioned this article in high esteem. How? Why? We soon get our answers.
It turns out the study isn’t a scientific study after all. It’s simply a puff piece letter in 1980 from a doctor who decided to use a study on patients in hospitals observing their rate of addiction. The pool of patients is small – 11882 to be precise – and claiming that less than 1% grew addicted came from these numbers. Given he only wrote 5 sentences, a real scientific study would be between 25-50 pages long.
Back in 2000, Bridget Meyer continues to use her position to inform and educate on the situation with OxyContin. She suggests that the FDA stop these pills for all but genuinely severe pain. She continues on, claiming the recent wave of crime is mostly as a result of opioids being given to those with minor pain, even toothache and headaches. Unfortunately, the FDA refuse to put any sort of restrictions in place until she can prove the drug is addictive.
In 1997, we cut back to Finnix and see him in a really rough way. Will shows up to check on him and with sweat staining his brow and typical jittery behaviour, Will confidently pedals the idea of pseudo-addiction. Finnix rasps that this is poison and lashes out at the businessman, hitting him in the face and forcing him out the clinic.
This pushes Finnix over the edge who exhibits signs of being “dope sick” properly for the first time. Now, this is typically a slang term for withdrawal symptoms to OxyContin and other strong drugs. When Finnix smashes open a glass cabinet to pop more pills, it’s clear that’s what he’s suffering from.
Betsy returns home from her Florida trip to see an impromptu intervention including her worried parents. They’re all waiting for her and suggest she go to rehab and get help. Betsy apologizes, tears in her eyes, and eventually decides to try and help escape this torrid situation. She opens up about her troubles while there, reflecting on how the pills made her feel “normal” and taking the steps toward getting clean.
Finnix though? Yeah, he’s nowhere near getting clean. He heads over to Walt’s place, desperate for Oxy. After handing over a stack of cash for the pills, Walt suggest he snort them to get a bigger high. And he does just that, sitting back on the sofa and letting the drug take its effect.
The Episode Review
Anyone else get super angry and shocked over the pseudo addiction part of this episode? The whole conversation is so expertly crafted too, right down to the little pause before Sackler asks him to work at Purdue Pharma.
This ultimately paves way for us cutting back and seeing both Finnix and Betsy who are looking the worse for wear off the back of this OxyContin epidemic spreading like a plague across the county. Finnix in particular looks dreadful, overcome with the jitters and a dependency on this drug that’s become incredibly dangerous.
Dopesick has done a great job showing the effects of OxyContin too, with Betsy playing up the role of young woman who’s now seeking help for her problem while Finnix slips further down the slippery path of no return.
To try and stave off this wave of addiction are Randy and Rick who go on the hunt for this elusive study, only to find the shocking truth that all of this is actually a result of a simple observation and not even a scientific study either. It really is crazy to think that Purdue Pharma have managed to use this as their claim to fame and seeing the FDA just nonchalantly shrug off these concerns from Bridget as well just goes to show how deep this rot descends.
Dopesick has been a really gripping drama and the show has done an excellent job keeping things shocking and utterly unmissable. Quite what next week’s episode has in store for us though remains to be seen – but it looks to be another must-watch!