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Family that brought us OxyContin, and arguably the opioid epidemic, is profiled in 2 magazines

As President Trump prepared to declare a limited public-health emergency in response to the deadly opioid epidemic, Esquire magazine and The New Yorker published fascinating articles on the secretive family that made a fortune selling OxyContin and arguably spurred the epidemic: the Sacklers of New York.

Arthur Sackler (Wikipedia photo)Arthur Sackler (Wikipedia photo)

If you've heard of the Sacklers, it's not likely in connection with drugs. The name is attached to art museums and university institutions all over the world. But the family has stayed mostly silent on the genesis of their multi-billion-dollar fortune. "The family’s leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: The first is selling OxyContin; the second is promoting the Sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and the second have nothing to do with one another," Christopher Glazek writes for Esquire.

Physician and pharmaceutical promoter Arthur Sackler bought Purdue Pharma in 1952 at the age of 39; his two brothers Mortimer and Raymond, also doctors, ran the business and bought out Arthur's share after he died in 1987. By that time, Purdue was in the process of developing OxyContin.

Purdue's aggressive advertising had helped Valium become America's most-prescribed medication in the 1960s. In the 1990s OxyContin succeeded partly for the same reason. OxyContin was popular for chronic pain sufferers because it didn't have the stigma of morphine. And though it was 50 percent stronger than morphine, many doctors incorrectly believed it was much less powerful -- a misconception Purdue actively encouraged. Doctors thought that addicts would stay away from a time-released narcotic, but it was the opposite: OxyContin had a breakthtaking amount of oxycodone in one pill, and addicts soon discovered they could access it all at once by crushing the pill and snorting it.

"The vehicle of that fortune was OxyContin, but its engine, the driving power that made them so many billions, was not so much the drug itself as it was Arthur’s original marketing insight, rehabbed for the era of chronic-pain management," Glazek writes. "That simple but profitable idea was to take a substance with addictive properties—in Arthur’s case, a benzo; in Raymond and Mortimer’s case, an opioid—and market it as a salve for a vast range of indications."

Patrick Radden Keefe writes for The New Yorker, "Sales representatives marketed OxyContin as a product 'to start with and to stay with.' Millions of patients found the drug to be a vital salve for excruciating pain. But many others grew so hooked on it that, between doses, they experienced debilitating withdrawal. Since 1999, two hundred thousand Americans have died from overdoses related to OxyContin and other prescription opioids. Many addicts, finding prescription painkillers too expensive or too difficult to obtain, have turned to heroin. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four out of five people who try heroin today started with prescription painkillers."

In 2007, Purdue Pharma agreed to pay a civil penalty of $600 million for misleading doctors, patients and regulators about the addictive nature of OxyContin. That avoided a trial and testimony, but Richard Sackler had to give a deposition in a suit filed by the state of Kentucky, similarly charging the company with deceptive marketing that had created the epidemic, costing the state dearly. The suit was filed in Pike County, at the eastern end of the state; in a bid to get the case moved, Purdue Pharma did a survey that “was revealing in ways that Purdue may not have intended: according to the filing, twenty-nine per cent of the county’s residents said that they or their family members knew someone who had died from using OxyContin,” Keefe reports. “Seven out of ten respondents described OxyContin’s effect on their community as “'devastating.'”

The case was settled for $24 million, but not before Richard Sackler had to give a deposition, Keefe reports: “Tyler Thompson, the lead attorney, told me that Sackler’s demeanor during the session reminded him of Jeremy Irons’s portrayal of Claus von Bülow, the aristocrat accused of murdering his wife, in the 1990 bio-pic 'Reversal of Fortune.' 'A smirk and a so-what attitude—an absolute lack of remorse,' Thompson said. 'It reminded me of these mining companies that come in here and do mountaintop removal, and leave a mess and just move on: "It’s not my back yard, so I don’t care."” The deposition remains sealed; Purdue Pharma is appealing the judge's ruling, in a suit by the medical-and-science news site Stat, that it should be public.

There's much more in the two long articles, but here's a passage from Esquire with ironic resonance. In Arthur's second wife Marietta Lutze's memoir, she noted that he became obsessed with collecting art:

" 'Boxes of artifacts of tremendous value piled up in numerous storage locations,' she wrote, 'there was too much to open, too much to appreciate; some objects known only by a packing list.' Under an avalanche of 'ritual bronzes and weapons, mirrors and ceramics, inscribed bones and archaic jades,' their lives were 'often in chaos.' 'Addiction is a curse,' Lutze noted, 'be it drugs, women, or collecting.'"

Written by Heather Chapman

Posted at 10/26/2017 12:41:00 PM


October 23, 2017

Join 'Captain Be Ready' and his crew for a high seas oriented adventure highlighting winter safety. The Captain's new parrot, 'Salty Sea' and crew mate 'Tabitha Treasure' join the Be Ready for this first episode in Season 2.

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Our 57th spotlight in the FACES OF HOPE: WE DO RECOVER series will focus on Franci Middleton’s story, Long term Discovery.



If someone asked me if I would go back and be a kid again the answer is NO WAY! Childhood was a horrible nightmare for me. I loved my sisters, and that part is such a blessing, but it seemed I was always in trouble for something, including some things that couldn’t be helped. I remember being in the first grade stealing things from my teacher’s desk. I will never understand why I did those things. I remember my neighbor, a young male, starting to molest me at probably five years old. I was unlike most I hear speak about it today, I had feelings for him. I thought in my messed-up mind he was showing me love. I guess that’s why once I met addiction prostitution came easier for me than I thought it should.

As a young teen I was seeking love in all the wrong places and stealing to provide for myself and others. I got good at it and was very proud of the fact I could go in a store and come out with a whole season of clothes, makeup and whatever else I wanted or needed. I started drinking, smoking pot, huffing gas, and getting high on whatever I could. I started then with self mutilation, cutting my hair, shaving my head, and getting into trouble with the court systems, My first incarceration came at 14 years old for assaulting my mother. One of my biggest regrets!

I ended up getting pregnant at 16 years old. I thought he would change my life forever! The love I felt for that child in my mind was my saving grace! I thought everything would change for the better, and that I would be a wonderful mother, PTA and all. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. I lost my son to my mother before his first birthday. This was the moment I felt in my heart my life was over!

I went on seeking love anywhere I could, hoping that if I gave all of myself to whomever I was with that night, he may save me, and I was willing to settle.

I was homeless, sleeping on any couch I could, gas station bathrooms, and buses. I felt I owed a debt so I always gave myself up to whoever would keep me for a night in hopes that he was my savior. My body was payment, mind you this was before my addiction to opioids. I walked the streets seeking a party or anything to escape my reality.

I went on many drug induced journeys with many different people and two more amazing children. I was in and out of jail for PI (Public Intoxication), shoplifting, unpaid fines, and child support. My name is carved in almost every cell in that jail house. I would sit and sing day in and day out. I will never forget the night that was the first time I felt the spirit of the LORD. It was crazy how He graced that cell that night. I began to have dreams of being on a horse with a sword, and at the time I had no idea what it meant but I do today. My criminal endeavors continued for years.

In 2007 I got a knock on my door, it was an old friend wanting to hang out. She asked me if I would ride with her to pick up some nerve pills, and I accepted her invitation. Little did I know my life would forever change that day. We wrecked going almost 70mph and hit a tree on my side of the car. All week I had a feeling that I was going to die and I had not slept but maybe 3 hours all week with a feeling of dread. I remember the last words that came from my lips before impact were “Lord, forgive me for my sins!” That day I survived, but it crushed all the bones on the right side of my body. This was the day I met opioids.

I learned to walk again, and still today live with severe pain. I remember sitting in my room feeling my body ache and being so sick I could hardly hold my head up. I knew that day that I was an addict. I began doing anything and everything to get my dope. I met the needle and in my mind I had found my GOD. I will never forget being so sick that I started speaking to the devil to bring me dope or I was going to turn my life over to GOD. It would be a matter of minutes and the dope man would be at my door!

I ended up in the life and all that goes with it. I finally ended up with trafficking charges where I, was a long process, accepted into drug court. I met my husband through it all and met a man people called Pastor Kyle. He told me I could live a life of joy and that all the things I had done in my life could be used to help people. He told me that Jesus loved me right where I was. He said God had a plan for my life and that he wanted to use me in a mighty way. I surrendered my life over to Jesus! I started going to Church and this was a place like no other I had ever been. They loved me and accepted me. I had always felt condemned in other places. I knew without a doubt I was on the path to my destiny.

I relapsed after 4 years in recovery and met heroin. By the grace of God I made it back after two years of pure hell! Today I am almost 3 years into recovery, but I call it Discovery because things that are happening to me today are all new to me.

I have 3 BEAUTIFUL grandchildren and I’m on the board of Behavioral Health in Frankfort KY. I am also on the board for KPFC, and the director of an amazing faith based ministry called Rewired. God used my Pastor, husband, and many others to pull me out of the pits of destruction. I learned to keep my mouth shut and my ears open to lock into recovery and plug into GOD.

My aha moment

The moment I realized that GOD would not relent! He kept calling me back to Him and He used every necessary means to wake me up. The last time was February 10th, 2015. I sat on my bed and said, “Okay, LORD.” I called Pastor Kyle and said, “I’m ready.” He immediately said, “Let’s get you help.”


Feelings and emotions in active addiction:

Nothing mattered anymore. I felt I could never change. I was trapped in the clutches of the devil. I tried to commit suicide many times. I had given up.

I was desperate for change but was full of fear.

The driving force that keeps me going when times get tough.

I know that no matter what, GOD has my back. I have such a great support system and I will pick up the phone. I always keep in my mind that I do not have another recovery in me, and if I hang on this too shall pass. Pray, worship, and read my Bible!

Advice for the addict still struggling.

If you are hopeless let us who are doing this thang be your hope. I am the mountain that GOD moved. I am living proof that you can live a life free from having to have a drink or a drug to function. You can be washed clean from all things in your past, He did it for me and many others; He will do it for you. Stop holding onto something that is dead! Find who you are, who you are truly meant to be!

What obstacles or road blocks have you faced in your recovery?

Court stuff mostly, and GOD moved on all of it! I also kept stepping back into who I was and it held me back a lot. I finally learned that I am a new creature in CHRIST and every morning remind myself of that.

What is something you want people who never struggled with addiction to know.

The stigma of addiction is that we never change and that its’s a choice. I was 5 years old stealing even though my mother brought me up in church. It’s not about who raised you or what kind of life you have lived, it’s about finding something that gives temporary solution to feelings and emotions that you cannot cope with.

Addiction can be overcome! Everyone can be free from its clutches but it was not easy, and no, we cannot just quit one day and that’s it.

What advice do you have for family members of a person in addiction?

I know we have put you through Hell, I am so sorry for that. Know that they can change and can be free, get connected with a Family support group to learn what you can do for them and you. You need support as much as they we do.

Closing Thoughts

I pray that anyone reading this begin to feel the want and willingness to change!

Christ came to give life abundantly and I declare life over you! YOU can be FREE from addiction! Long term help is out here. Get connected today! Don’t put it off. Now is the time to become who you are meant to be. God will restore you and your family! You can be a good Mother/Father/ to your children, you don’t have to keep living in the hell of addiction. Make that call!

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call Addiction Recovery Care at 606.638.0938 or visit them on the web at


There is hope. There is help.