Prescription Thugs

by Christina Bryan


Drugs are prescribed by doctors to people all over the country, and this is generally accepted because these drugs are designed to help. But when people take more pills then prescribed, they can wind up in a serious addiction, one that is very hard to get out of. Prescription drug overuse is a very serious issue that can be found all across America as a result of the corrupt pharmaceutical industry. Prescription Thugs takes a look into the lives of addicts and their families, particularly in the wrestling environment, ultimately dealing with the addiction of the filmmaker himself.

Thesis: Prescription drug overuse is one of the most threatening issues facing America today, and PHARMA is to blame for neglecting to inform the public of how addictive and dangerous the drugs they are selling can be.

Purpose: The purpose of this film is to inform the public about the truth of the pharmaceutical industry. Many people are put on drugs everyday, not knowing what the risks may be. This documentary shows how addictive prescription drugs can be if not consumed properly. PHARMA knows about the risks of putting the public on these drugs but fail to inform them of this information and results in covering up the truth. This documentary serves to let the audience know about the information that PHARMA doesn't want us to and to learn about prescription drugs and their addictive nature. The overall purpose is to show that addiction can be found everywhere, and it is not something that will go away anytime soon.

Audience: The audience of this documentary encompasses many people. One group of people are PHARMA and the pharmacists who run the business of prescription drugs. This documentary is aimed towards these officials in order to get them to change their ways and properly inform the public about the risks of these drugs before selling them. The audience is also the people who are already on prescription drugs so that they know the danger they are in so that they can make all precautions in order to prevent becoming addicted. Lastly, the audience is the general public to inform them of how addictive these drugs can be so they can make wise decisions about their health and know what they are getting into if they ever have to be put on a drug.

Mode: The Expository Mode


Ethos: This documentary consists of this appeal because the narrator was addicted to prescription drugs, the very thing he was informing the public about. He has personal experiences connected to these drugs and he shares these experiences directly to the audience. He knows how easy it is to become addicted to these drugs and what it feels like so he can relate to prescription drug users. This can be seen when his friend describes a time when Chris was in a very bad spot in which he was in serious danger because of his addiction (1:11:57-1:13:42). These pills had a significant effect on Chris' life and since he has been through all of this he is a reliable person to share the story of addiction.

Logos: This documentary uses this appeal because it shows how common prescription drug addiction actually is. When someone is asked to think of a dangerous drug they probably think of heroin, meth, cocaine, or other drugs of that nature. However, not many people go straight to prescription drugs which is actually the drug that causes the most amount of deaths besides alcohol. This can be seen when a Senator did a speech about prescription pills (1:10:47-1:11:17). He discusses how prescription painkillers are more deadly than heroin and cocaine combines and how Craigslist helped to facilitate this. This makes the audience think because they don't really expect painkillers to be this deadly. They also don't think that a site such as Craigslist can be used to sell these drugs without penalty.

Pathos: This appeal is very frequent in this documentary. The filmmaker/narrator's brother, Mike, was addicted to prescription drugs and eventually died from this addiction. Real life footage of him was shown to cause the audience to feel emotion for this person and turn against the pharmaceutical industry. It causes them to feel angry that these drugs are so easily available and nothing is being done to restrict this access. This can be seen when the footage was shown of Mike right before he died (1:18:57-1:20:37). This plays with the audience's emotions because Mike's dad was telling him that he needs to change his ways but he evidently didn't, winding up dead just a few weeks later.

Types of Evidence

There are several types of evidence present throughout this documentary. One of the main types of evidence is the use of facts and statistics. An example of this is, "In 2013, Big Pharma spent close to $226 million on lobbying our government" (1:06:12). This provides concrete evidence that proves how powerful PHARMA is. They control a part of the government and are protected by it so nothing can really be done against them. Facts are used very frequently throughout this in order to inform the audience of the seriousness of this issue and why it is such a realistic issue in today's society. There are several interviews in this documentary in which participants describe their personal experiences with pill addiction. This method provides real life stories to evoke an emotional appeal so that it is not all facts and figures. This can be seen when a woman named Betsey Degree describes how she would steal her daughter's pills and tell her that she no longer had any coming in. This shows how easy it is to get ahold of pills and how addictive they can become. There are some instances in which expert opinions are brought in to verify the legitimacy of this issue. For example, Dr. David Healy who was a professor and author was brought in to discuss prescription pills, specifically antidepressants. He states that these pills are making disorders such as bipolar disorder more common instead of treating it. He believes that there are a lot more risks than benefits by taking these pills. He is an extremely credible person, and because of that his opinion should be highly respected and trustworthy.

Visual Style

Many visual tools are used throughout this documentary to best achieve the goal of informing the public about the danger of prescription pills. One tool that is used is facts that are written on the screen as well as charts and figures. These are used to get the audience to actually visualize the facts instead of just hearing them. It is easier to believe what is seen than heard which makes the audience more likely to believe these facts. There are several instances throughout this documentary where somber music is played in the background of scenes to demonstrate the tragedy that lies within these pills. For example, there is a scene where a woman named Kat Taylor, a child psychiatrist, is being interviewed. She deals with the families of those struggling with addiction. In this interview she discusses how we all try to pretend that we are living great lives while ignoring the reality. While she is talking, dismal music plays in order to demonstrate that this lifestyle that most of us live is extremely sorrowful and we need to stop ignoring what makes us hurt. There are several real news stories and surveillance throughout this documentary that display the effects of this drug addiction. This shows whats can actually happen as a result of these drugs with real concrete evidence to prove it. Overdoses and death are actually occurring because of prescription drugs and no one can deny that it is when shown actual news stories. There is a part that specifically shows celebrities that have died from prescription drugs. These were people's idols and their whole life got thrown away because of this addiction. This brings in an emotional appeal by acknowledging the deaths of stars who many people have looked up to. The narrator also discusses the film within the film. He does not announce it at first but later into the documentary, he states that during the formation of this film he was using prescription drugs. He had been addicted for a while and he discusses his addiction and struggling to create this film during it.

  • contains a lot of facts and statistics
  • the narrator knows what it is like to be addicted
  • real footage of Mike evokes emotion
  • high quality footage


  • not a lot of counterargument
  • does not cite statistics
  • does not interview a broad range of people, mainly focused in wrestling environment


  • There is red herring when the narrator describes all of the bad PHARMA has done to distract from the good they have done.


There is not much counterargument in this documentary but it does acknowledge some of the opposing viewpoint. It does this by addressing the good that PHARMA has done in eradicating diseases and helping people in need. This can be seen when the narrator lists diseases that PHARMA has helped eradicate such as measles and polio. There are people who have no other options but to go on prescription drugs so they need easy access to this medicine. Without these drugs, many people would become even sicker and a lot more people would die. However, this side of PHARMA is not acknowledged very often in this documentary.


This documentary was successful in displaying how powerful PHARMA is and how addictive prescription drugs can be. There are several interviews of people who are actually addicted and they describe what their relationship with these drugs are. I think that since the narrator himself is a prescription drug user, this documentary is very credible and gives a good insight on this addiction. It also deals with the narrator's brother who had died from these pills which brings in an emotional appeal and shows how easily people can fall into the realm of addiction. However, this documentary does not heavily discuss the positive side of PHARMA which makes the argument very one sided. Prescription drugs are needed by many people to treat/hinder pain or disease. Prescription drugs can not be taken away so a different solution must be devised to curtail these addictions while still keeping people healthy and pain free. Overall, this documentary was successful in displaying how harmful PHARMA is but lacks in the overall picture of the welfare that this industry provides.