Reveal: Too Many Pills

Drug overdoses now are the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, largely thanks to a surge in opioid use. Although heroin and fentanyl have dominated the headlines in recent years, the problem started with a flood of prescription painkillers, distributed by some of the country’s biggest corporations.

At the urging of his editor, Washington Post reporter Lenny Bernstein set out to learn why millions of pills were being sent to cities and towns across the U.S. – and why distributors seemed to shrug off evidence of rampant abuse. His reporting took him to Washington’s halls of power: the Department of Justice, Capitol Hill and deep inside the Drug Enforcement Administration, with a senior official who saw the crisis coming.

Also in the episode: New Hampshire Public Radio’s Jack Rodolico offers a harrowing look at how opioid addiction can reach the places we thought were most secure. Daniel Couzins was a runner, a vegan and an assistant manager at a New Hampshire bank. He also was addicted to opioids. When he died from an overdose at 31, his wife found a cache of video diaries he’d made about his addiction. They provide a stark, intimate portrait of how addiction can slowly take over – and end – a life.

Reveal is a weekly radio program produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. For more, check out our website and subscribe to our podcast. Photo illustration by Michael I Schiller for Reveal. Photo of pill bottle and hands by Frankie Leon via Flickr 

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