|(L-R) Perri Peltz and Producer Sascha Weiss, TFF World Premiere, 'Warning: This Drug May Kill You' (Carole Di Tosti)|
For an investigative reporter like Perri Peltz, the question had tremendous import. It seemed that she and others she spoke to knew of someone's relative or child or neighbor or friend or friend of a friend's family member who had overdosed. So she decided to investigate and what she discovered was profound. It upended any preconceptions of the demographic of individuals who were overdosing and the families who were living with the trauma and torment of wondering what they might have done to save the lives of loved ones who had died.
|Opioid painkillers (photo from the site)|
Nothing was or is farther from the truth. In a 2007 settlement Purdue Pharma executives admitted culpability and pleaded guilty to "misbranding" or not appropriately warning users of the deleterious addictive properties of OxyContin: made of the pure narcotic oxycodone, that contains a large amount of the opiate in each tablet because of the time-release design. Did sales representatives and executives gauge the risk-reward ratio? Did they consider that by the time doctors and families of patients realized the unrelenting addictive properties of OxyContin and sued, the company could still be ahead of the game, reaping tremendous profits after any monetary settlements? Perhaps not, though this has indeed been the case.
|Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Co-Director of Opiod Policy Research Collaboration Brandeis University (Carole Di Tosti)|
|(photo from this site)|
In each instance, Peltz follows family members as they discuss the growing arc from doctor to over-prescription to ending prescription to "graduation" into seeking more and more pills. In four instances out of the five patients, individuals moved into heroin addiction when the prescriptions stopped. Heroin delivers the same effects and it is cheaper. In the instance of the beautiful wife and mother (the husband eventually had to divorce her), her addiction prompted her to physically injure herself to obtain opioid prescriptions from various doctors who complied with her persuasive pleas for narcotic painkillers.
|Cole Family: Gail Cole co-founder, Hope and Healing After an Addiction Death, TFF (Carole Di Tosti)|
Only in one instance that Peltz illuminates, is the individual now on the road to recovery and there is light at the end of the long tunnel of addiction. However, the other four patients who began on prescriptions of opiates never were released from the narcotic's hold over them. They poisoned themselves as they attempted to satisfy the great hunger that the opiate increasingly inured them to. They died and are mourned. And this film tells their story in the hope of preventing one more death from opiate overdose.
|Jane Rosenthal, Co-Founder/Executive Chair, Tribeca Enterprises, Red Carpet, 'Warning: This Drug May Kill You' (Carole Di Tosti)|
Peltz reveals in the title and throughout the film that doctors' inappropriate over-prescription is a hazard. The probability of over-prescription leading to possible self-poisoning by patients along a journey of addiction should not be risked or even entertained. This was further given credence to the announcement Peltz made after the World Premiere of Warning: This Drug May Kill You, that the epidemic numbers of opioid overdose are now higher than 91 deaths-a-day.
This is a monumental film that touches all of our lives whether we recognize it or not. With knowledge comes power and the ability for patients and families to question their doctors about over-prescription of opiates, if the occasion arises. Doctors are also becoming aware of the epidemic and are over-prescribing much less. Advocacy and support of families who are struggling up the long hill of a family member's opiate addiction is an imperative.
Warning: This Drug May Kill You airs on HBO2 on Wednesday. Check this website for times.
For clips of brief interviews with Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Gail Cole, Perri Peltz and Sascha Weiss, check Youtube and Warning: This Drug May Kill You.