Skip to Main Content
Contribute Try STAT+ Today

Matt Ganem was first exposed to the prescription painkiller OxyContin when he was 16.

He was at a house party in the Boston area — the kind where kids traditionally first experiment with drinking or marijuana. Ganem didn’t know much about OxyContin, but he gave it a try.

That first pill was the beginning of a five-year struggle with opioid addiction.


Ganem’s story is not uncommon. The United States is in the throes of a nationwide opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 165,000 Americans died of prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2014.

Part of the reason so many users struggle to get clean is that opioid withdrawal can be physically excruciating.


In this video, STAT explores exactly how opioids affect the human body — and why addiction can be so difficult to kick. Ganem, now 31, learned firsthand.

  • Stopping was a nightmare. We all know that. In my treatment, Suboxone was prescribed… you suck it under your tongue, and it KILLS the dope sick. Of course, that’s the first stage in “getting sober” since you have to relearn how undo being an addict, but it was attainable for me with suboxone. Only certain doctors can prescribe it, it is a godsend and it kills the dopesick. As a former addict who went through dopesick numerous times trying to cold turkey it, getting professional help with suboxone is FANTASTIC! Good luck.

  • I am on day 3 of Cold Turkey, taking OXY.’s everyday for months. What happened last night to me was the worst feeling ever !! I could not sit still for at least 9 hours, slithering everywhere like a snake. I scared my GF, who had to witness. Talking nonsense seeing things and going through torture, feeling better today but not 100 percent yet. To anyone attempting this, be ready, and remember it does end !!

  • This should be considered a form of torture, yet this was what they did to thousands of responsible pain patients with real medical conditions that cause pain. At the same time they forced addicts to go through Withdrawal too, while they debated providing treatment. Thanks to the AMA there were few if any physicians willing to treat addiction, or even to explain the need for pain patients, or even how opioids work.

    The entire opiate epidemic shows how the unholy alliance of big business, and our broken government agencies failed to protect American Lives. The media continues to spread misinformation, lies and advertorials, about this created epidemic. None of this was a surprise yet each and every fact is treated as if it is.
    Anyone with half a brain knew this stuff was addictive, yet back in 2014, when they decided to re frame this problem in order to profit from it, they created even more heroin addicts. People with pain were forced to go through withdrawals too, so some turned to cheaper and more available heroin. The FDA And CDC chose to ignore facts, and listen to clever industry insiders who were peddling other prescription drugs, alternative cures, and expensive treatment businesses, that added to the death toll.
    The Market Based Healthcare Model created this mess, and at the same time a Market Driven dehumanizing economy where people are alienated created the need for Heroin or other drugs.

    Face it people, we live in a country where torture and death, are not a problem anymore. The facts are not applicable anymore. When people addicted to drugs died in jails or were expose to drugs for the first time in jails, no one pain attention. Here in the US facts, data and statistics don’t matter, and science is a discussion. Every content marketer, troll, and fanatic has an opinion on this scourge, yet not one can comprehend a fact. The fact is these so called helpers, made this epidemic even worse. Not one has even considered the effects of their actions, and misinformation.

    The journalists who used misleading numbers to inspire fear based responses, that includes referring to Opioid Dependent babies as Addicted. It got more attention while stigmatizing pregnant women, criminalizing addiction, and drove people that need care away. At least it was good for the advertisers, who peddled lies too.

    Here is some misleading “Journalism” designed to mislead the public. The writers only credentials are in marketing lucrative Breweries. No background in healthcare or science, as we see here, he is providing free public relations and advertising for a local hospital.
    The judgement is so pervasive as the continually refer to the babies as Addicted. This explains why this hospital already failed the community. Not one healthcare worker who reviewed this article mentioned the continuing judgment the article illustrates. Of course the writer thought it would get more attention referring to the babies as addicted. he does not follow the Associated Press, because he is a marketer, and they don’t follow any guidelines at all. There are no facts involved here or outcomes, merely one anecdotal story. They placed this in the business pages, since it was really an advertisement. This location has one of the highest rates of addiction, death, and suicide in the nation. The Heroin problem preceded any of the prescription drug debacle in Northern New Mexico. It is clear that this non profit provider, ignored this topic for decades even though judgement did nothing for the addicted, they used it anyway.

    They see a revolving door or addicts, alcoholics and mentally ill, daily in their ER. Last year they sent a mentally ill man to his death, his insurance did not cover treatment. Instead of providing facts for the community they continue to run positive anecdotal stories like this one. The Opioid Epidemic was used as an excuse to stigmatize pain patients too. They set up a Pain Clinic to cash in on dangerous but lucrative steroid injections. Since they have non profit status, the FTC does not regualte their advertising, like they are supposed to with for profit healthcare companies.

    The misinformation, lies and marketing continue, as people die. Don’t expect any of those patient groups or addiction groups to discuss how this kind of fact free marketing is killing people. They have all been targeted by unscrupulous marketers too.

    • …and you believe the FBI killed Martin Luther King while hunting Bigfoot too. The drug was created to help with pain and has done its job! Get over your paranoia and accepts the fact that if you get addicted it’s your own fault and no one else’s. There are proper way to come off the drug that will work providing you follow the protocol. It maybe difficult for some people, but so is surgery…that’s the way it is!
      Take responsibility or yourself and your own actions and get off the conspiracy train

  • I was on morphine due to AVN for two years……I couldn’t wait to get off it I was taking 101 milligrams a day. The Docs said It would take six months to taper off it. After all my surgerys were done I was blessed by God because I was completely off Morphine in less than a month. I will never take it again. I would rather die of pain.

  • I should also point out that this guy started with an Illegally obtained “prescription drug” one of many that was sold directly to the black market by the criminal drug manufacturers. This will be counted as a “prescription drugs, even though it is unlikely there was no Physician or prescription involved. Many of these pills were stolen too, form people’s medicine cabinets. The current false narrative about prescription drugs is being used to target people with legitimate pain conditions, while the big criminal drug distributors are getting away with their crimes.
    The use of this and other mass media publications to misinform the public, and continue to make not only the addicted suffer, but to target sick people, really should be criminal. Other developed nations figured this out, but here in the US this misery is being used to market false “Solutions” and spread the disease of “Addiction” along with the Epidemic of Despair.
    Maybe someday real scientists will look back at this scourge and compare it to Nazi Germany. The Medical Industry did nothing to stop any of this, they perpetuated it. It was a convenient way to increase market share and avoid accountability. They even included people who the Surgeons, and Device Industry left with Intractable Chronic Pain, in the addicted category.
    I wonder how many people with multiple Device surgeries, like old women with failed hip implants had to go through this kind of withdrawal after their pain medications were taken away.

  • This article, like many others fails to distinguish the process of Addiction as one that occurs primarily within the human brain.My experience with Oxycontin as a pain reliever ( d/t chronic back pain) for over 8 years resulted in no addiction / physical dependence, nor withdrawal symptoms once I decided to stop the Oxycontin.In addition, Addiction is a Learned behavior.

    • The number of people with Chronic Pain, and Veterans injured in war, who go through Withdrawal, every time their Physician decides not to treat them anymore, or they do anther “crack down” wont be discussed in major media. Due to the lop sided way the media has covered this, topic the death toll in increasing. In my state the pot industry decided to market their product for “Drug Addiction.” Some clever Psychologists are using this as an opportunity to not only market their services, but to continue to create profitability for pharma, insurance companies and the medical industry. Before this was an Epidemic, lobbyists for the AMA chose not to allow continuing education for opiates. All they have to do it tell Physicians it could lead to liability, and they will allow any form of brutal behavior.
      Back in 2011 the “treatment industry” and the pharmaceutical companies, had their paid minions, journalists in the business pages portray all of this as a investment opportunity. They are doing the same thing now with “Super-bugs” instead of informing the public the threat becomes corporate news, and advertising.

      Where some of us see death and despair, clever people know they can make a profit.

    • These miraculous anecdotal “Cures” and testimonials are making this problem even worse. It is really clear that you were on a minimum dosage, because you had a competent Pain Management Physician who tapered you off. That has no correlation whatsoever to what this video is describing. People who abuse these drugs typically are on higher doses that what a pain management physician would prescribe. Also many pain patients are very aware of the potential for addiction, or dependence and keep their dosages low or intermittent. Some pain patients are afraid to even take these medications even when they are dying of cancer. All of the misinformation floating around on social media and unfounded comments are actually killing people. From the video and scientific observation, withdrawal from opiates is a physical process, in some cases causing death.
      There are people with chronic pain who were forced to go through withdrawal, and see their lifestyle and ability to work lost. As we sit here, many are considering suicide, thanks to irresponsible beliefs and denial by the medical industry. There are people who are incarnated, and since about 50% of the people who are described as addicted are over fifty with other health conditions, they DIE!
      That kind of information is not readily available, and certainly does not contain the sensationalism or mass media requires. The medical, pharma and even the for profit prison system does not allow that kind of information to get published.
      There are plenty of un ethical psychologists, physicians and quacks willing to latch on to stories like yours, they sell books, speaking engagements, and alternative cures. Everyone wants a cheap miraculous cure, and billions have been made peddling one. There are plenty of Trolls, or Content Marketers on social media willing to prey on the addicted and their families. There is a lot of money to me made, due to the apathy and ignorance of the public, and the failure by our government agencies to regulate these medications years ago. They were paid off by corporate lobbyists, as industry insiders infiltrated the regulatory agencies.
      We are seeing more deaths, as the system fails to respond in any meaningful way. Even our food safety is under threat, millions of American will get a food borne illness this year, thanks to less regulations. As long as there is a buck to be made, the misinformed will be leading the parade.

    • Youre not being truthful, just sayin…addiction may not have affected you, but you were surely physically dependent on the medication after 8 years of use. You would be a medical miracle if you were able to simply stop taking the oxycontin without withdrawal.

  • This interview is great, especially the visuals. Do you have a video that doesn’t bleeps out the swears? Would be a great addition to our school drug unit.

Comments are closed.