12 years ago my younger brother Tony died from a mixture of Oxycontin and alcohol. A similar lethal combo (oxymorphone with alcohol) killed director George Hickenlooper, whom I regarded as an actual friend, the following year (2010). Oxy has contributed to the accidental deaths of 500,000 persons before and since. It’s obviously a harmful substance, and we all know that some in the pharmaceutical industry pushed it like any streetcorner heroin dealer.

And yet I’m more of a libertarian than a scold about this issue. In a perfect world no one would drink or take drugs, but if someone is truly miserable (as my brother was) and wants to live inside an Oxy cocoon as a means of pain management…I think they should be allowed to go there, at least for a limited period. And if they accidentally die from this, it’ll be sad and tragic but the responsiblity would be theirs.

God knows alcohol is a worse scourge, especially in the realm of driving deaths. An estimated 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. And yet no one is hysterically hot and bothered about the alcohol industry.

From Owen Gleiberman‘s Variety review of Alex Gibney‘s Crime of the Century (HBO, 5.10 — 231 minutes): “’Pain relief’ sounds like an innocuous phrase out of an old Bayer aspirin commercial, but Gibney captures how the elimination of pain has been elevated, by the pharmaceutical-medical establishment, into a false American cult of wellness.

“It’s no accident that the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, advanced this way of thinking. It was more or less invented in the early ’60s by Dr. Arthur Sackler, who brought drugs into the age of advertising with the marketing of Valium. OxyContin was sold as a quality-of-life drug, which is how it hooked thousands. And that marked a paradigm shift: From this point on, you could basically walk into a doctor’s office and ask for pain relief. The Crime of the Century is a full-scale vision of how America, addicted to pain relief, embraced the corruption of legalized drug pushing.”