The HBO documentary “Warning: This Drug May Kill You,” details the devastating effect America’s pharma-driven opioid crisis is having on families and the victims themselves. The film, made by Perri Peltz and Sascha Weiss, features the perspectives of four families whose lives have been ripped apart as a result of opioid and heroin addiction.
Opioid and heroin addiction — which public health officials have described1 as being the worst drug crisis in American history — affects about 2.5 million Americans, nearly half a million of whom are addicted to heroin,2 a dangerous street drug that prescription pill addicts can quickly turn to because the cost is significantly less than that of prescription painkillers.
The term “opioid” is used to describe a class of drugs that includes the illegal drug heroin, as well as the legal prescription painkillers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others. Ironically, the silent but deadly opioid epidemic often starts with some of society’s most trusted professionals: doctors.
As noted in the film, a significant number of opioid addictions begin with a trip to the doctor’s office or a hospital as a result of an injury or medical problem for which addictive painkillers are carelessly prescribed. It seems no medical problem is too minor for powerful prescription painkillers to be prescribed.
This is depicted in the film, which details the story of a young woman from Beach Park, Illinois, who became addicted to OxyContin after being prescribed the medication for kidney stones. Not only are opioid pain medications (also called narcotic prescription painkillers) wildly overprescribed, but they are also often given without warning of the potential risks for addiction and/or resources to help deal with the possible risk of addiction.