This fall, a character on NBC's hit show Chicago PD - Antonio Dawson, played by Jon Seda - is shown to have injured his shoulder in his job as a police detective. He takes opioids prescribed for the pain. Before long, he's depicted as an addict, desperate for more pills and becoming erratic in behavior.
Last fall, the hit TV show This is Us embarked on a storyline surrounding Kevin's (Justin Hartley) use of opioid painkillers following surgery. Kevin continued to pursue prescription refills beyond what he had been allowed, and he was shown heavily drinking alcohol alongside the pills he takes.
These two examples are among many seen on popular primetime NBC shows recently.
Yes, the United States has declared an opioid crisis. However, with every depiction like this one, we are hurting legitimate pain patients - some 100 million Americans and the vast majority of individuals using prescription opioids. These patients are now being shamed and stigmatized by much of society simply because they need some help functioning. Most people do not become addicted to painkillers; they do not seek more than they absolutely need, and they certainly do not abuse alcohol while doing so. Only 1-2% of patients become addicted to opioid painkillers.
Per the CDC, approximately 64,000 people died of opioid-related overdoses in 2016 - compared to 680,000 people who died of cigarette-related causes. This fact tends to put the issue into better perspective.
Media portrayal of any issue is important. Society listens and responds to messages sent, both consciously and unconsciously.
Please issue an apology to the chronic pain community and seek to portray an example of normal painkiller usage on your network.