Former Harvard Fellow Discusses Dopesick Adaptation – Harvard Gazette

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The new Hulu miniseries “Dopesick” paints a gritty and compelling picture of the opioid epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans over the past two decades. The series is based on the bestseller “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America” ​​by Beth Macy, a journalist and former Nieman Fellow. Speaking to the Gazette, Macy explained how her time at Harvard helped her develop as a reporter, described her work on the film, and shared her reaction to it Bankruptcy settlement This granted the Sackler family, owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, immunity from opioid lawsuits. The interview has been edited for the sake of clarity and length.

GAZETTE: In 2010 you were selected as a Nieman Fellow. How did your time at Harvard help you become a writer?

MACY: I wouldn’t have written any of the three books I’ve written if I hadn’t come to Harvard. After my Nieman year, I went back to my newspaper [The Roanoke Times, in Virginia] with a lot more confidence and the ability to think bigger and more global. My first book, Factory Man, about a local furniture maker fighting offshoring, is a global story. It starts in China, then goes down to rural Virginia, then goes to Washington, DC A local reporter won’t believe he has the authority to follow this story, but the Nieman Fellowship gave me the authority to do so. And when I got back to Roanoke, I not only called the Virginia Tech expert; I would call the Harvard expert.

GAZETTE: How does it feel to see your work adapted for the screen?

MACY: It feels awesome. “Dopesick” did well as a book; it was a bestseller and was awarded. But to see how it hits Hulu – suddenly the story is going to have a whole new audience, a younger audience, and hopefully can change the conversation about stigma. From all of the reports I’ve written for my next book on Solutions to the Crisis, I know that the number one stigma is preventing people from accessing treatment. I hope that when people see the story on the screen, it is not your ex-colleague at Subway who is still in jail for selling weed or pills that is spreading this topic across the nation Has; It was these multibillion dollar corporations that started it all and continued to run around the judiciary while your neighbor is in the local jail or in jail for committing a crime while trying not to get doped. And when I say stigma, I’m not just referring to personal stigma. I also mean systemic stigma of not spending enough money treating people and putting up too many barriers to drug treatment. We have an 88 percent treatment gap in America. That means that last year only 12 percent of people with opioid use disorders had access to treatment. We’ve spent billions, but a lot of it doesn’t reach people because we don’t have the infrastructure.

The other thing the show offers is the backdrop to what is happening with the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy settlement today, and with a crisis that killed tens of thousands of Americans last year. It is also a great backdrop for the opioid epidemic to emerge. You see decisions being made in the boardrooms, then you see pharmaceutical agents telling untruths to doctors, and then you see doctors prescribing opioids. And then you see the poor patients get addicted, commit crimes, and overdose, and you really see how that works out on all sides.

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