Opioid epidemic: Map the profits, political donations and deaths.

6 mins read
The Sackler Family and Purdue Pharma made billions during the opioid crisis

The opioid epidemic involves over 500,000 deaths and a $13 billion fortune.

How much do you know about Purdue Pharma? The Sackler Family and their political donations to Republicans? And a settlement that would let the family ‘hold onto their freedom and most of their money’?

Where did people die from drug overdoses in America? Who were the politicians responsible for looking out for their constituents in those areas? How do the wealthy and politically well connected make billions from the deaths of other Americans? Where can you find accurate information on corporate profits, political donations and public deaths?

How do you engage and inform people with little free time about the issues that impact them? Keep your message short, engaging and interactive.

“Americans should be empowered by access to clear and unbiased information about money’s role in politics and policy and to use that knowledge to strengthen our democracy.” (Open Secrets). This StoryMap is an illustrated overview of the opioid epidemic, the money and people involved. The StoryMap can be skimmed in minutes and includes maps, quotes, images, videos and links to more details.

Follow the profits and political donations behind the Opioid crisis What role did Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family play?



Show how voting has consequences

People have limited free time, and bombarded with information. Complex but vital issues like the opioid epidemic often get less public attention than they should. There are dozens of excellent sources of information but people are often unaware of them or do not have time to research them. Activists need a simple to make the facts easy to follow. They need to connect the dots between corporate greed, political influence for those with little time and show how voting has consequences.

That’s where StoryMaps come in. It is a free app designed for visual storytelling. We designed this StoryMap with this framework:
– An eye-catching visual about opioids (Unsplash)
– Introduction to the severity of the crisis and the Sakclers (NY TimesNPR)
– Map of drug overdoes deaths by county with political representative (County Health Rankings)
– Converting the health data into an interactive map (ArcGIS Online)
– Sackler family and Purdue Pharma PAC donations to Republicans (Open Secrets)
– Cartoons for perspective and visual interest (Political Cartoons)
– More information (OpenSecretsFollow The MoneyEmpire of Pain)

Political cartoons about the opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma and the Sakcler family.

Make it personal

People want to know how an issue impacts them personally. Interactive maps let them find out the local consequences of a decision made in D.C. and who they should hold accountable. We used data from County Health Rankings to create the base map which is overlaid with district boundaries and the Congressperson and Senators representing that area. This map has data for 3,144 counties which can be easily searched.

Opioid deaths by county is easily searched and also includes the Congressperson and Senators representing that district.

Opioid epidemic background

“Some 500,000 Americans have died from opioid-related overdoses since 1999, and millions more have become hopelessly addicted. Not all of this wreckage can be laid at the feet of the Sacklers, but a lot of it can. By aggressively promoting OxyContin, their company, Purdue Pharma, ushered in a new paradigm under which doctors began routinely prescribing the potent and dangerously addictive narcotics. In the process, the Sacklers became fabulously rich, reaping, according to one expert’s court testimony, some $13 billion.

OxyContin was their cash cow and they milked every last dollar from it despite knowing what it was doing to the country.

If there’s one difference between El Chapo and the Sacklers, it’s that El Chapo is paying for his crimes with a life sentence in a supermax prison in Colorado while the Sacklers get to hold onto their freedom and most of their money.” – NY Times review of the book “Empire of Pain

Political donations

“Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, under scrutiny for role in opioid crisis, are big political spenders. As the opioid crisis continues to ravage the country killing more than 130 people per day in the U.S., the makers of the addictive opioid OxyContin face tightening legal challenges. The company, Purdue Pharma, has been run by the wealthy and influential Sackler family for generations. In 2016, the Sacklers were listed by Forbes as the 19th richest family in America with a $13 billion net worth. Both Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler clan have been active in the political realm.

The family has favored Republican and conservative causes which have received 52 percent of the family’s total contributions. The overall top recipient of the 12 family members’ contributions was the Republican National Committee (RNC) with $252,700.” – Open Secrets

TakeAway: Don’t let complexity hide the truth about vital issues like the opioid epidemic.

Make the facts interesting, easy to follow and share with the free StoryMap app. Get pro bono help with StoryMaps about social justice and voting rights here.


DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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