Based on a true story of greed, deception and unfortunate people who didn't know any better, this makes for one distressing watch.
'Dopesick' intertwines various stories, all related to one topic - OxyContin. This "revolutionary" pain-relieving drug was created by pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma during the mid-'80s and was first sold to small mining communities whose people regularly suffered from injuries at work, eventually spreading to more parts of the US. Shifting gears from the inception of the drug through to the eventual early '00's court case, we meet a range of people caught up in the epicentre of what would become America’s struggle with opioid addiction.
Michael Keaton (who stars and executive produces here) plays the role of Dr. Sam Finnix, who is given the drug by newly-recruited drug salesman Billy Cutler (Will Poulter) on a trial basis for some of his Virginian residents; we also cross paths with Betsy Mallum (Kaitlyn Dever) who begins taking this drug, as advised by Dr. Finnix; while DEA agents Rick Mountcastle (Peter Sarsgaard) and Randy Ramseyer (John Hoogenakker) attempt to get help from John Brownlee (Jake McDorman) and Bridget Meyer (Rosario Dawson) in order to take down Purdu Pharma for what they believe to be the biggest epidemic the US has ever seen.
The limited series is inspired by the New York Times bestselling book by Beth Macy, and with series creator Danny Strong ('Empire') on hand, it crams a lot of information into one limited series, yet it doesn't feel over-stuffed or hard to keep track of. Coming from an Irish perspective (i.e. not knowing a great deal about this controversy before going in), you will come out of this feeling flabbergasted that it was all allowed to take place.
A word of warning though - this is no picnic in the sun. The characters that we meet in the series range from the greedy, to the unstoppable, the easily duped, and finally the innocent lives that become ravaged with addiction. It illustrates how blind-sighted doctors, salespeople and patients were to the confusingly-labelled new miracle drug, with there really being no winners in the series.
Kaitlyn Dever's young miner Betsy has been reserved as the character who has the most to lose out of this, playing a character who rather devastatingly has to deal with family troubles, discovering herself, and yearning to leave her small-town life behind. Michael Stuhlbarg's Richard Sackler, on the other hand, the driving force of the pharmaceutical company, is a deranged man who believes this pill will be the cure for all of American's problems.
Feeling satisfied after watching the first three episodes, we can't help but feel compelled to tune back in for the remaining five hours of this real-life dramatisation, all down to the powerful emotional beats which explore the devastating cost of opioid addiction on humans.
'Dopsick' launches on Disney+ on Friday, November 12.