Produced by HBO Documentary Films, Warning: This Drug May Kill You is a harrowing portrait of four families in crisis. They've all fallen victim to the ravages of opioid addiction, an epidemic that has decimated entire communities all across the United States.
Prescription opioid abuse has escalated rapidly among all races and classes. The epidemic began with the full-throated support of the pharmaceutical and medical industries. Initially, opioids were promoted as non-addictive solutions for chronic pain, and doctors were encouraged to prescribe them with great frequency. We witness the damning evidence of this early on in the film through publicity materials produced by Purdue Pharma in 1999. "Less than 1% of patients taking opioids actually become addicted," the company's spokesman insists. Today, even Big Pharma can't deny the damage wrought by their disastrous propaganda.
At the age of 16, an Illinois teenager was prescribed Oxycontin for painful kidney stones. She soon developed an intense addiction. When her pill habit became too expensive to maintain, she turned to heroin. After tremendous struggle, she managed to kick her addiction for a sustained period of time and rebuild her life. Her sister, who felt compelled to follow in her footsteps from an early age, wasn't so fortunate.
Another profile features a mother who was first prescribed opioids after her third difficult pregnancy. Once beloved for her driven and fun-loving nature, the drugs soon transformed her into a shadow of her former self. She fought through eleven separate rehab stays. Her doctors continued to fuel her addiction with greater quantities of prescriptions. Eventually, she succumbed to her disease. Her lifeless body was discovered by her children.
Additional portraits feature an upper middle class family who buries their son following a fatal heroin overdose, and a father fighting to overcome the death of his daughter from a similar fate.
Stories like these are becoming more common with each passing day. Warning: This Drug May Kill You is populated by tales of overwhelming loss and grief, and every memory these families share feels emotionally resonant and relatable. In the process, the film also urges for greater awareness among families and medical professionals alike.