n 2016, 64,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses. That number was driven largely by an epidemic of opioid abuse. Communities all over the country are losing friends and family members to this crisis at a terribly high rate. I know this firsthand, because I grew up in one of these places: Somerville, Mass.
More than a year ago I began thinking about how to tell the story of what happened to my circle of friends, and that turned into Runnin’, our award-winning documentary that premieres Thursday at statnews.com. I hoped that by examining how the drugs took hold in my hometown, I could illustrate how the same thing can and does happen everywhere. Runnin’ includes candid and thoughtful interviews with friends who lost family members and others who abused opioids themselves. One family, who lost their son and brother, started The Alex Foster Foundation in his honor to help families harmed by opioids.
Runnin’ also examines the role pharmaceutical companies played in promoting the prescription drug OxyContin and downplaying the risk of addiction. Nearly every friend of mine that battled opioid addiction started with OxyContin and progressed to more dangerous but chemically similar street drugs like heroin and the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
It is part of STAT’s mission to find and tell compelling stories about health, medicine, and scientific discovery. I hope you’ll join us Thursday for Runnin’s premiere.