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The Family Behind the Opioid Crisis

Opioid addiction is dangerously high in the United States.. Over 130 people die each day from an opioid-related overdose. As of 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid addiction a public health emergency. I never even thought to look into the companies who create drugs like Morphine, Oxycontin, and Codeine, and I certainly didn’t imagine that one family was responsible for pushing the prescription for one of these opioids across America.

(Picture Courtesy of HHS)


In January, a court in Massachusetts decided to release information about the Sackler family and their connection to the opioid crisis. The Sackler family is one of the wealthiest families in America, with an estimated net worth of 13 billion dollars. The three Sackler brothers founded Purdue Pharma in the 1950s, and by the 1990s they started selling OxyContin which is a pain medication that has been compared to the effects of morphine. However, since the January court ruling, the public gained knowledge of the Sackler family’s deceitful and immoral business practices. They pushed doctors nationwide to prescribe OxyContin for patients, letting doctors believe that OxyContin was a safer option than morphine and in some cases, an alternative to Tylenol. Even in the height of the opioid crisis, Opioid-related deaths tripled since 1990,  the Sackler’s were trying to increase OxyContin sales and boost prescriptions.


(Picture courtesy of Shutterstock on Pixabay)

In the past couple years I noticed seeing more news stories about the opioid crisis, one that stuck with me was a mother hanging over the steering wheel of a car while her 10 month old child was in the back seat. The pictures of the overdosed parents that were posted, often by police officers, were harrowing and deeply concerning. While I have not personally been exposed to anyone with an opioid problem, I felt partly sickened by the pictures but also devastated for the children who had to witness their parents die from opioid addictions. Which is why I find it even more disgusting that the Sickler family not only profited immensely from the opioid crisis but also pushed sales of OxyContin and deceived doctors and patients. Their profit was our country's loss, families lost siblings, parents, and children so that one family could build a fortune.   

Yasmine Hetherington

UC Riverside '21

Yasmine Hetherington is an undergraduate student student at the University of California Riverside. She is majoring in Psychology with a minor in business. When she's not studying she enjoys painting, drawing, and hiking in her hometown in the Bay Area.
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