Watch It: Netflix Show “Painkiller” Highlights The Origins Of The Opioid Epidemic In The USA 

Watch It: Netflix Show “Painkiller” Highlights the Origins of the Opioid Epidemic in the USA 

Netflix®’s miniseries Painkiller is the latest Hollywood story to tackle the opioid epidemic.

For Addiction Treatment professionals, and anyone who has seen the destructive effects of the opioid use disease in their loved ones, Painkiller is a dramatic and often angry summary of the events that have shaped healthcare over the last three decades.

Painkiller’s approach is similar to that of last year’s Hulu miniseries Dopesick, intercutting the years-spanning stories of:

  • Cause: Purdue Pharma® creates the OxyContin® pill and markets it to prescribers.
  • Effect: Characters are prescribed OxyContin for injuries and develop Opioid Use Disorder, harming them and their loved ones.
  • Recourse: Closer to present day, lawyers fight the legal fight for a 12-figure settlement from Purdue.

All six episodes of the series, starring Matthew Broderick as Richard Sackler, premiered on August 10. Watch them now with a Netflix subscription.

The Personal Impact

Interspersed in the drama of Painkiller, the creators of the show wisely highlight the stories of real individuals impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Every episode begins with an individual delivering the following statement to the camera: “This program is based on real events. However, certain characters, names, incidents, locations, and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes.”

After this disclaimer, the speaker continues with their testimonial, such as in Episode One: “What wasn’t fictionalized is that my son, at the age of 15, was prescribed Oxycontin. He lived in years and years of addiction. And at the age of 32, he died all alone in the freezing cold in a gas station parking lot. And we miss him.”

Painkiller Series Episode One

Every episode of Painkiller begins with real life testimonials like that of Christopher Trejo, reminding audiences of the real cost of the opioid epidemic.

Finding “Justice”

The U.S. Attorney character Edie Flowers is fictional, but she represents a composite of several lawyers who played a role in the lawsuits against Purdue Pharma. In Episode One, Flowers has an exchange with the advantageous firm Woodsent Larkbane & Callenby (again, fictional, but a composite of some real-life law firms).

Their exchange goes as follows:

WL&C: “Every state and dozens of cities and counties are suing Purdue Pharma for their role in starting the opioid epidemic. It’s literally hundreds of lawsuits that would take decades to resolve, so what we’ve done is consolidate those lawsuits into a single case that we believe will bring justice once and for all.”

Flowers (scoffing): “Justice? Okay.”

WL&C: “We can’t bring people back from the dead, but we can make these people pay for what they did.”

Flowers: “So not justice. Payment.”

The message is clear: the money matters, and it paves the way for providers and local leaders to address addiction in their communities. But no dollar amount can begin to make up for the lives lost and ruined by opioid use disorder.

A Warning

We advise you to use discretion in showing Painkiller to children. Netflix lists the show with a rating of “TV-MA” (Mature Audiences) for “language, nudity, sex, sexual violence, smoking, substances [and] violence”.

The Work You Do Matters. So Let Us Take Care of You

Stories like those in Painkiller illustrate why the work that Addiction Treatment and Behavioral Health providers do is so important. AZZLY® wholeheartedly believes it is our mission to serve you as you serve those in your community. Let us help you meet your clinical and business needs so may focus on helping the lives of so many people.

What we offer is an all-in-one Electronic Health Record (EHR), Patient Management (PM) and revenue cycle management (RCM) platform AZZLY Rize based on feedback from providers like you. Medications for opioid use disorder can be better managed with our integrated DrFirst® feature for E-Prescribing of Controlled Substance (EPCS) and state PDMP lookups.

Take a tour of AZZLY Rize with an AZZLY expert and get the answers to all your questions. Reach out any time at or (772) 567-0206. Let us be a resource for you.