Does the Sackler family name ring a bell? — A family with assets of up to $13 billion (which makes them the nation’s 19th wealthiest family) should be somewhat famous.

The Smithsonian Museum has a Gallery dedicated to the Sacklers, and a number of other prestigious institutions around the country have exhibits dedicated to them as well. You might not have heard of them, but the people who comprise the medical and governmental elite know who they are.

The reason why this matters is because the Sacklers were very influential in getting the American population addicted to opioids — through the drug OxyContin.

Forbes outlined a brief history of how the Sackler family got started in the world of medicine:

“The family fortune began in 1952 when three doctors — Arthur (d. 1987), Mortimer (d. 2010) and Raymond Sackler — purchased Purdue, then a small and struggling New York drug manufacturer. The company spent decades selling products like earwax remover and laxatives before moving into pain medications by the late 1980s. To create OxyContin, Purdue married oxycodone, a generic painkiller, with a time-release mechanism to combat abuse by spreading the drug’s effects over a half-day.”

In 1995, the FDA approved the drug for general consumption, after that ruling, the drug’s popularity grew exponentially. By 2003, OxyContin sales hit $1.6 billion. By 2012, doctors wrote more than 282 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers (including OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet) which roughly translates into one bottle of opioid painkillers for every American.

According to The New Yorker, OxyContin “has reportedly generated $35 billion in revenue for Purdue since 1995.” OxyContin’s sole active ingredient is oxycodone, a chemical compound very similar in nature to heroin (which itself is highly addictive).

Around the same time that OxyContin was approved for public consumption, deaths related to opioid usage skyrocketed across the United States. Which takes us to the current day.

Heroin addiction has become something of an epidemic in America — even in Ventura County. In big cities like Chicago, Baltimore and Detroit, it is not uncommon to see people drugged-up on heroin lying in the streets. These people have had most of their humanity stripped away from them by a drug that cares little for the carnage it causes families and individuals. Most of these people who are addicted to heroin first had an experience taking some form of prescription opioid, which is likely to have been OxyContin.

Below are some opioid-related facts:

  • In 2016, more than two million Americans had an addiction to prescription or illicit opioids
  • Since 2000, over 300,000 Americans have died from overdoses involving opioids.
  • Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States, outnumbering both traffic crashes and gun-related deaths
  • In 2015, there were 52,404 drug overdose deaths — 33,091 of those deaths, almost two-thirds, involved the use of opioids
  • The situation has only gotten worse, with drug overdose deaths in 2016 expected to exceed 64,000
  • This represents a rate of 175 deaths a day

Opioid addiction in America is not going away anytime soon, but one thing that we can do is educate ourselves on the origin of how it happened.