Talk Sober Live: ‘Opioids, Inc.’ Documentary Filmmaker on Holding Pharma Accountable

Nick Verbitsky joined All Sober's Maeve O'Neill and Geoff Botak for a wide-ranging discussion about the future of addiction and a big hurdle yet to be overcome — stopping the bad actors of the opioid crisis

September 21, 2022
Filmmaker Nick Verbitsky

“We’re all touched by addiction, one way or another,” said Maeve O’Neill, EVP of addiction and recovery at All Sober, on the Sept. 21 episode of our Talk Sober interview and video series. The segment, which aired on Facebook Live, brought together four people who have joined the fight against addiction from rather different places to answer the big questions in the field: What is the state of addiction in the U.S. today, what can we hope for in the future, and what challenges stand in our way?

With journalist Kathleen Koch moderating, O’Neill contributed her expertise on behavioral health and recovery; Geoff Botak, an All Sober advisor, spoke from his perspective running the Malvern Health treatment centers; and Nick Verbitsky, an Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker, focused on how the corporate greed of some pharmaceutical companies has fueled the current opioid crisis. That’s the subject of his 2020 PBS Frontline documentary “Opioids, Inc.,” the inside story of Insys, a company that bribed doctors and misled insurers to push large doses and quantities of a dangerous fentanyl-based spray.

The roundtable panelists discussed the progress and shortcomings of the most recent governmental initiatives to combat substance use disorders. Verbitsky’s reporting, he said, has led him to remain skeptical about regulatory and enforcement changes aimed at drug companies. “We’ve seen plenty of news about large pharmaceutical executives paying a fine, nobody’s being prosecuted, and they just kind of sail into the sunset,” he said. “It’s just sobering to know that this [regulatory] regime already existed and really wasn’t that effective in a lot of cases.”

O’Neill and Botak sounded some more hopeful notes, at least regarding the evolution of treatment. As O’Neill observed, it’s all interconnected. “Nick’s movie and stories like that are so important to show that there are other factors that influence [addiction],” she said. “Our goal today is to not stigmatize and not penalize or punish those who are suffering from addiction.”

Watch “Opioids, Inc.,” Verbitsky’s riveting account of the Insys case, and follow All Sober on Facebook for more live segments coming up! Plus, check out previous episodes about recovery and music, and drug sentencing reform.

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