Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Dopesick is a tough show to watch. It’s a devastating, raw and unflinching look at the opioid epidemic that gripped the US and crescendoed in 2019. Through the distribution of a new drug called OxyContin, Dopesick dives into all aspects of this drug, from those executives calling the shots through to sales reps, doctors and innocent patients that become addicts.
The show is a little confusing for the first few episodes to be fair, but stick with it as you soon become accustomed to the frequent time jumps. Beginning in the late 90s, Dopesick uses three or four key characters and throws them across different years, including the height of the epidemic in Appalachia between 1996 and 2002, the beginning of investigative efforts in 2006 and the eventual outcome in 2019. Along the way, the show follows a number of different characters which helps to flesh this world out and provide a comprehensive breakdown of exactly what happened and how.
At the top is Richard Sackler and his rich family, who oversee Oxy distribution and push for it to be stronger, more addictive and pass FDA regulations, making backroom deals with politicians and trying to broach Europe through Germany.
The sales team for Purdue Pharma (the company in charge of producing and distributing Oxy) are also given a focus here. Billy Cutler serves as the main eyes to this side of things, witnessing firsthand the shocking tactics and incentives the group have to push Oxy across the nation.
The first outbreak of this highly additive drug (which is labeled as less than 1% addictive no less) occurs in Appalachia and that’s seen through Dr Finnix and Betsy, two characters who both get their own extensive storylines here across the 8 episodes. No spoilers of course, but both of these are incredibly difficult to watch and show just how devastating and dangerous this drug is.
Finally, we get a view if those trying to push back against Oxy and other opioids of its kind. Bridget is a tenacious officer and after a drugs bust where Oxy is found among illegal drugs, she begins investigating further. Alongside here are two lawyers in Randy and Rick, who are recruited by John Brownlee to start investigating Purdue Pharma and their illicit activities.
All of these stories take place across different years but Dopesick cleverly weaves them all together through a quick animation, whizzing us forward or backward through time. While initially distracting and a little disorientating, it’s easy to get used to and the show actually works better this way too, building up tension meticulously to a dramatic finale that closes out this investigation nicely.
The acting throughout Dopesick is outstanding and the editing is absolutely on the money. It would have been so easy to slip up with these time jumps and turn everything into a big mess but the guys have done a great job to make this consistent and easy to understand.
Dopesick is an important show and an absolute must-watch this year. It’s a raw, intimate and heartbreaking portrayal of Big Pharma’s relentlessness to push dangerous drugs onto the market. Corruption, greed and justice are the main ingredients of this highly addictive show. If you haven’t seen it already then you absolutely must.
Verdict - 9/10