How Much of Dopesick is True?

The latest Hulu original Dopesick offers us a dramatized and fictionalized account of the America’s famous opioid crisis. If you know your current affairs well, you don’t have to be reminded of how real the opioid crisis is.

Dopesick tells the story of people who became addicted to the drug OxyContin after being prescribed the same by their doctors, doctors who prescribed the drug to their patients and pharmaceutical sales reps who fed lies to sell the drugs to as many places possible. All of this is quite real.

So the plot of Dopesick itself is rooted in reality. But as viewers, it is natural to wonder how much of the show is actually accurate and how much has been created for the sake of the plot. I have tried to answer how much of Dopesick is actually true, considering this is a question many of you following the show might be having. I had it too.

Dopesick is based on a non-fiction book about the crisis by Beth Macy. The characters were created taking inspiration from real life people mentioned in the book. Some events and characters were fictionalized for the purpose of storytelling.

Here’s everything else about Dopesick and how much of it is actually true.

1. Is Dopesick a True Story?

Dopesick is based on a non-fiction book by well-known journalist Beth Macy titled “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America”. In this book, Macy mentioned accounts of real life people and also accounted for events that took place in reality.

How much of Dopesick is true?
Dopesick by Beth Macy

In an interview, Macy said that the characters created in the show were based on real life people who were mentioned in her book. Now technically you cannot really pinpoint one person based on whom a particular character was created.

Many of the characters such as Dr Samuel Finnix is not based on one particular person but is very real in the sense that such a personality definitely did exist.

He is not based on one doctor working in a Virginia coal mining country prescribing OxyContin to his patients. Rather, he is the representation of many such real life doctors who did prescribe the drug to their patients.

It is the same case with the character of Betsy Mallum. She began taking OxyContin after being injured in her job. Similarly, she is a fictional character created for the purpose of the show but is based on the conglomeration of many such people who got addicted to the drug.

However, there is also Richard Sackler, the head of the pharmaceutical company that created the drug OxyContin in the first place. He is based on a real person. In other words, the dude really exists.

So Dopesick is a mixed bag. Some characters and events are absolutely rooted in fact while much of it has been scripted and dramatized for obvious reasons. But if I had to answer this in a line, Dopesick should be considered based on true incidents.

2. Is Richard Sackler Really as Portrayed in the Show?

In the show, Richard Sackler is an intense man with a ruthless drive to promote OxyContin despite the consequences and collateral damage. Wondering if he really was like that, since the guy existed in reality?

How much of Dopesick is true?
Richard Sackler

The character of Richard Sackler was created after careful research and analysing many of his interviews and articles written about him in reality. Macy and Strong even interviewed formal employees to get an accurate picture of him.

But even then, he seems to be bit of a mystery in real life as well. I mean that even with adequate research, much of his character had to be based on speculation because there isn’t too much to figure out.

Another interesting fact is that though executives of the company and the company itself pleaded guilty, the Sacklers were not charged with any crimes. So it is very interesting  personality we are dealing with here.

More or less, the character has been shaped keeping in mind the actual Sackler, but you never know. I am guessing the portrayal to be mostly accurate because there are anecdotes that illustrate how ruthless a businessman Richard Sackler was, which the show also depicts well.

3. Is Keaton’s Character Based on a Real Doctor?

Michael Keaton plays Dr Samuel Finnix in Dopesick. He is a doctor in a small Virginia mining town. He was convinced by a Purdue Pharma salesman to prescribe the drug OxyContin to his patients.

How much of Dopesick is true?
Dr Samuel Finnix

While his patients developed an addiction for it, Finnix also developed a sort of dependency on it starting his own journey of dealing with addiction and recovery which is reminiscent of his patients’ journeys as well.

No, Samuel Finnix does not exist in real life if you want to pinpoint one person. But many doctors share the same story and helped shape Finnix’s character in the show. He is not based on one individual but a number of such doctors who had a similar story to say.

According to Dopesick creator Danny Strong, “By fictionalizing, 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.”

So Dr Finnix is a result of the conscience of several doctors coming together and their lives and stories from their journey developing together into one man who resonates with the tale of many such people who are very real. Their lives were affected by the opioid crisis like Dr Finnix’s.

4. What Happened to the Sacklers in Real Life?

The Sackler family faced various lawsuits involving their company Purdue Pharma, but as is the story with most of the rich people in the world, nothing really happened.

The Sacklers still remain one of the wealthiest families in America. They have a net worth of about 10 billion collectively as of now, so they are pretty settled.

Dopesick Official Trailer | Hulu
Dopesick Official Trailer | Hulu

In 2021, the verdict said that in exchange for a $4.5 billion settlement, selling their pharmaceutical holdings and canceling their equity in Purdue the Sackler family could get immunity of a lifetime from any civil liability.

However, an appeal has been made against it in court. Though with rich people as we know, nothing as such happens. The rich people of the world have continued to be subjects of entertaining television shows dealing with finance and money.

They face temporary challenges but in real life, the rich get richer and the poor—well no shows are made on them, so we don’t know.

Bottom line is that most of the Sackler descendants are leading normal lives today. The huge dynasty does not have every member connected to the opioid crisis today.

5. How will Dopesick the Show End?

Though I feel it is early to predict exactly how, but going by real life events it should end with the lawsuits and the Purdue Pharma executives facing charges for their crimes. It might also explore how the Sackler members escaped the lawsuits and continued with their lives.

How much of Dopesick is true?
Dr. Samuel Finnix

The show might throw light on how big of a crisis this was and how it affected so many people and changed lives. So it all depends on how the writers deal with these important consequences and dramatize it.

6. About Dopesick

Dopesick is an American drama miniseries created by Danny Strong based on the non-fiction book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy. The first three episodes of the eight-episode series were released on October 13, 2021, on Hulu.

Dopesick focuses on “the epicenter of America’s struggle with Opioid addiction” across the US, and specifically the drug OxyContin.

Epic Dope Staff

Epic Dope Staff

Our talented team of Freelance writers - Always on the lookout - pour their energies into a wide range of topics bringing to our audience what they crave - fun up-to-date news, reviews, fan theories and much much more.


Leave a Reply