Three Waves: The United States Opioid Crisis

Ryan B. Santoro

Document Type Honors Thesis (Open Access)


The past two and a half decades have witnessed widespread suffering, addiction, and death at the hands of the opioid crisis. This paper analyzes the crisis through a series of time periods, broken down into “waves.” Drawing upon primary material in relation to OxyContin advertisements in the 1990’s, this research takes aim at the origin of widespread opioid abuse disorder. By building upon analysis done on the Sackler Family, Purdue Pharma, heroin abuse, fentanyl overdoses, the COVID-19 pandemic and opioids and addiction in modern pop culture, this thesis shows how despite constant change in public policy, the opioid crisis continues to worsen year over year.