“ZERO F*#CKS GIVEN” –
Sept. 20, 2021 – In a previous life, Hampton worked as a campaign staffer for Bill Clinton. After a hiking injury, in 2003, he was prescribed opioids and fell into an addiction, in which he abused prescription painkillers, including OxyContin, and eventually heroin. He couldn’t hold a steady job and lost his apartment. He finally got sober, in 2015—an experience that he recounted in a previous memoir, “American Fix”—and has since worked as a speaker and advocate on addiction issues. Prior to assuming his role on the U.C.C., Hampton had an openly antagonistic view toward the Sackler family. As far as he was concerned, he writes, they should “rot in jail.”
The status of the victims in the Purdue Pharma case is complicated. There are, indisputably, many people who have died from overdoses involving Purdue’s drugs. In “Unsettled,” Hampton quotes a sealed deposition from 2020 in which Richard Sackler is asked whether OxyContin kills people. “Sometimes,” Sackler says, adding, “I don’t think that the manufacturer was any more responsible than the manufacturer of a car that’s involved in a fatal accident.” (Hampton marvels at the billionaire’s iciness: “Zero f#*ks given.”) Beyond those who die, there is a broader community of people who, like Hampton, have struggled with the drug but survived. And beyond that is an even larger community of families whose lives have been impacted by addiction. For years, Purdue and the Sacklers argued that people become addicted to drugs of their own free will, and that the company—and the family that owned it—should not be held responsible for the rash decisions of others. In the 2020 deposition, Richard Sackler said, “People who take OxyContin and abuse it are taking a risk, just as big as they take when they abuse illicit drugs.” To him, these people weren’t victims at all. They were perpetrators. Nevertheless, after filing for bankruptcy, Purdue launched a public-notice campaign to inform those who might have been injured by its products that they were entitled to make a claim against the company. More than a hundred thousand people did. On the U.C.C., Hampton was joined by three other victims: Trainor, who had used the drugs herself and given birth to a child who was born dependent on opioids; Cheryl Juaire, who had lost a son to a prescription-opioid overdose; and Walter Lee Salmons, a grandfather who was helping to raise two children affected by the crisis.