Cause of Death: Unknown
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Cause of Death: Unknown

2017, Health  -   18 Comments
Ratings: 7.50/10 from 30 users.

The opioid epidemic represents the most profound public health crisis in recent times. The statistics are staggering. More than 200,000 Americans have perished from opioid related causes over the past five years. Now, the crisis has spread to regions like Germany and France. Cause of Death: Unknown tracks the sinister scourge of opioid addiction, examines the human tolls it has taken on communities across the American landscape, and exposes the culprits who are behind its deadly spread.

The film opens in the opioid capital of the United States - West Virginia - a state that contends with the highest overdose rate in the country. We see a woman place flowers on the graves of friends who have perished from addiction. She wasn't successful in escaping the disease herself. Her addiction resulted from a doctor's repeated prescriptions for Oxycontin, and soon she turned to selling the drugs to support her growing habit. It's possible that she is partially responsible for some of her friends' deaths.

The film shifts perspective from the deeply personal stories of opioid abusers to the massive industries that profit most from their misery. It's particularly effective in portraying the shameful collaboration between members of the medical community and the opioid manufacturer Purdue. The company encouraged doctors to prescribe more potent doses, lavished them with high-paying speaking gigs, and effectively incentivized the business of addiction. The film features insights from a corporate whistleblower who further details their shadowy tactics in shattering detail.

Their day of reckoning might be at hand. More than a thousand communities are filing a class action lawsuit against the largest drug distributors to the tune of 500 billion dollars a year. The objective is to hit these companies where they're most vulnerable: their deep pocketbooks. Participants agree that this is the only way to enact meaningful policy change. "Money drives it all," explains one of the case attorneys.

In its final act, Cause of Death: Unknown travels outside the United States to witness more personal stories of loss and devastation, and the steps being taken to curb a seemingly global apocalypse of addiction.

Directed by: Carmen Butta

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18 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Judy

    What I don't understand and I wish someone could tell me is why I did not get addicted. I have a serious back injury and severe pain, screaming, sometimes passing out pain that at times paralyzes me, and before anyone knew that hydrocodone was addictive, I took it every day, three times a day along with flexeral, for several months. Then the pain got better and I quit taking them. After it became obvious that it was addictive, The doctor still would prescribe me a 100 pill bottle of hydrocodone 10/325 which would last around 2 years as I only took them when the pain was really bad. Now of course no doctor will prescribe them so I have to suffer debilitating pain. But my question is why did I not get addicted? I never had any withdrawal. Never felt any high. Just a reduction in pain and sometimes sleepiness (understandable with flexeral a muscle relaxant.) I keep reading so much about how pretty much everyone gets addicted to these drugs yet I didn't. Why? Maybe studies should be done on people like me so that painkillers could be made to bypass whatever it is that makes some people addicted so that people like me can get some help for debilitating pain.

    1. Renee

      I took Them over two years due to an accident. I never abused him and I never became addicted and I had no withdrawals. I guess I was the lucky one

  2. Terryl

    No one group / individual is responsible: the u.s govt trafficked in dope Nicaragua, Laos, CIA, Clinton’s, and more, the govt kissing pharma ass, big pharma, and of course the individual junkies themselves. Experiencing the sixties/seventies, travelling around the world and researching this Independently... that’s my opinion, but u.s. govt/ and big pharma are huge clandestine perpetrators.

  3. Catherine Todd

    The Sackler family just filed bankruptcy - to get out of payment of fines, I'm sure. And not one day in jail, while addicts spend years in prison. DEVILS, all of that whole family!

    The Sackler family is one of the richest families in the US.
    In 2016, Forbes estimated their net worth at a "conservative" $14 billion, beating out famously wealthy families such as the Mellons and the Rockefellers. More recent estimates put the figure at $13 billion.
    The Sacklers are one of America's richest families thanks to ...

  4. Catherine Todd

    So "the drug dealers moved in?" The pharmaceutical company and the doctors were and are the FIRST drug dealers! My awful doctor got me hooked, told me NOTHING about addiction, and when I said "these pills are not helping" he told me "he couldn't help me anymore" and told me to leave. As if I was a drug addict because I told him the pills were not helping! And he's the once that gave them to me. I now despise the medical profession as they have destroyed any confidence I ever had. All because I had medical insurance. I'm sure he would not have prescribed them if I didn't have insurance, and his office was ALWAYS FULL.

    I got off them myself; the withdrawal was awful. CBD oil is working like magic, and no addictions or side effects.

    But cigarettes and alcohol are still being legally sold, along with so many addictive prescription medicines. Makes me sick. Literally, mentally, emotionally and physically. Goodby to the Medical Profession if I can help it!

    1. Josh Sidebotham

      You are a hero for your advocacy and strength, however I don't think it's fair to blame the entire medical industry. I think the pharmaceutical corporations are more to blame. The truth is that some doctors (including yours) are bad, but not all of them are. Doctors are there to save lives, and they aren't out to get you.

  5. Mark Gaboury

    Blame the users the most, doctors next, and drug companies last. When I was on morphine pills, it never even occurred to me to crush them in order to get more high. Why not? Because I'm not a weak-minded loser. These addicts are victims of themselves. In the ad, Purdue did not lie. Use the drug as prescribed for pain, and for pain alone, without crushing the pills, and there is no problem.

    1. Catherine Todd

      Mark Gaboury, I never crushed my prescribed pills, but was addicted none-the-less. It was hell getting off of them but I did it. How did you quit yours?

      I can't believe you are blaming the victims. When people see that others are becoming addicted, or can be, they must be responsible for telling them about those dangers. Not once did anyone ever discuss this with me. NOT ONE WORD.

      So I don't blame the victims, not at all. But for the grace of God, that could have been me.

    2. Josh Sidebotham

      That is totally false. These people shouldn't be able to get their hands on the stuff in the first place, and there is no reason for the pills to be so potent. People get addicted because their lives suck and they want to feel good. And you don't have to crush the pills to get addicted.

    3. John Tripp

      BS. I worked in the big pharma industry, it's designed to addict people.

  6. Mark Deegan

    The government allows it

    1. Мартин миланов,martin Milanov from Bulgaria/Europa

      you have voll right . In Europa is not diffrend. the most EU States nave the Opiod/Metadon Therapie refused and have compliet stop the Programs conected with sale from this Poison. Now the Praxis ist to recover the Opiat abstinenz with Subotex,that Medicament work of diffrend way and its must be not from the opatgruppe of medicaments.

    2. Josh Sidebotham

      No, the bad politicians do.

  7. Marijke

    That is about 40.000 a year. Not a single word about the same amount, namely 40.000 a year, that die because of shotgun wounds!!!! 40.000! A Year!!!! People that die because other people 'have the lawful right to now a pistol/rifle or whatever gun they like...A nation of would-be murders, protected by law!

  8. andrew

    this guys gay voice is as annoying as the lgbt movement. as also as fake

    1. Catherine Todd

      Andrew, are you a miserable fake bot? You can't be serious. You hateful comment about lgbt needs to be removed and your ability to post rescinded.

  9. maryw

    Really,,not 1 word about 42,000 dead from psychotropics alone..Every piece of data on opiates is a lie,,by liars,,Always they include idiots who mix drugs,or do not take as prescribed..Meanwhile anyone w/a medical illness that is painful is left to die in agony!!Since when has America condone the willfull torture/genocide of the medically ill in physical pain?For that is the truth as to what is happening to any medically ill humanbeing in physical pain,,their being tortured,some tortured to death..Thanks a lot opiate-phobs,,,just call yourselves tortures instead,,torturer's of the medcally ill in physical pain,,What gives u that right??to torture another humanbeing??maryw

    1. Josh Sidebotham

      Hello? They aren't saying to stop relieving people's pain, they're saying to abolish the methods that are addictive. THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO TREAT PAIN BESIDES OXYCONTIN.

      Don't you see? Addiction is torture.