'What Would You Do?' focuses on the opioid crisis

What happens when diners witness a family trying to have a serious talk.

ByMark J. Parker
August 16, 2019, 1:08 PM

Tonight on "What Would You Do?" a mother takes too many prescription painkillers for her back pain. Her husband and son decide to confront the problem on the spot: they can see that she’s abusing opioids and needs help.

It’s a deadly national epidemic. The CDC has reported that every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. While many take opioids responsibly for pain management, the CDC estimates that roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.

In even more distressing news, the recent United Nations annual World Drug Report showed that the opioid crisis has spread across the globe. Two-thirds of the 585,000 drug-related deaths worldwide in 2017 were caused by opioids.

In June, thousands of U.S. counties, cities, and villages filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers for their alleged roles in contributing to the opioid crisis through improper marketing of the drugs, including misleading doctors and the public about how addictive they are. The companies have denied wrongdoing and say they are helping to tackle the opioid crisis.

In tonight’s episode, we see what happens when diners witness a family trying to have a serious talk about the excessive use of prescription painkillers. The mother, played by our actress Angela, tells her husband, played by Guy, and son, played by Jack, that she is not an addict, but just needs some relief for her pain.

Actors Jack, Angela, and Guy in character as a family.
Actors Jack, Angela, and Guy in character as a family.
ABC News

Jack: Mom, I thought you finished that prescription weeks ago?

Angela: A friend gave me some more when my doctor wouldn’t. I just need a little relief… I’ll cut back soon. I can stop anytime I want. I just really need them right now.

Guy: Honey, I don’t want you to be in pain, but you have not been yourself. I’m worried about you.

Actress Angela in character shaking pills out of the bottle.
Actress Angela in character shaking pills out of the bottle.
ABC News

When our father and son ask Angela how many pills she’s had so far today, nearby customers observe. In one scene, when Angela steps away for a moment, customers Diane and her granddaughter Olivia give their support to the family. Olivia tells our actors that she was actually in a car accident two years prior, and was prescribed Percocet and Oxycodone.

“Dad didn’t let me take them,” she says. “He was like, ‘You’re not taking them anymore. Take some Advil and take a nap.’”

Diane commands Angela to flush away those pills.

“Flush them! They’re such a crutch you don’t need. Look at what you have," she said, referring to actors Guy and Jack. “You have the best crutches in the whole wide world, are you joking?” She touches Angela’s hand and states, “You are so much stronger than this stupid stuff!”

Similar reactions and support come from customers James and Ronda, who are husband and wife.

Ronda tells Angela, “You look like you need help. You look scared. Get help and you’ll be back on the road.” James tenderly tells her, “You have to be strong, and fight not only for yourself but for them,” referring to our other actors.

The biggest show of support comes from a customer named Stephanie, who says that she is there if Angela ever needs to talk, and encourages her to seek professional help.

At one point, Stephanie asks Guy and Jack, “Do you want me to go talk to her?” when Angela has stepped away from the table, to tell her that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Moments later, they return and sit together so Stephanie can write down her contact information for Angela to keep.

“I’m a very good listener. So just call me, and I can help you. We can talk about stuff… figure things out,” she tells our actress.

After Stephanie gives Angela a long, powerful embrace, host ABC's John Quinones steps in to say hello. “I was afraid she was gonna hurt herself,” she tells Quinones, holding back tears. “It could have been me. It happens to people. They get stuck.”

To see how other people react to various scenarios, watch "What Would You Do?" tonight at 9/8c on ABC.

If you or someone you know is suffering with a drug or alcohol addiction, call the National Drug Helpline at 1-888-633-3239.

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