What Is Real in Painkiller and Made Up

The True Stories of Oxycontin Overdose Deaths

John Ales as Dr. Gregory Fitzgibbons in episode 104 of Painkiller. Cr. Keri Anderson/Netflix

When considering the legal disclaimer at the beginning of each episode about the show being fictional, executive producer Eric Newman said that he and Painkiller director Peter Berg didn’t want to let the Sacklers off the hook too easily.

So they came up with a way to double down on the truth about Oxycontin: It has claimed the lives of thousands and thousands of real overdose victims.

The beginning of each of the six episodes of Painkiller briefly introduces a family member of a real Oxycontin overdose victim, who tells the audience what they miss about their loved one and the impact that the loss has had on them and their family.

Newman personally went to the homes of all six families featured in the episodes.

“It was a very hard thing to do, to sit for, and I had to go to each of these homes… sadly, it was not hard [to find them]. They’re everywhere,” he says. “I continue to be surprised by the breadth of this tragedy — that these people all were basically a stone’s throw from one another and never knew each other. It’s that prevalent, these opioid overdoses and deaths of young people. The goal of those disclaimers is to remind people that this happened, this is real.”

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