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Alter Everything

A podcast about data science and analytics culture.
Alteryx Alumni (Retired)
How can everyone - from data scientists to activists - use data effectively in order to make a positive difference in human issues such as the opioid epidemic? We're joined by Dan Schneider from the Netflix docuseries, The Pharmacist, to learn how he's used data to fight the opioid epidemic.







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Episode Transcription

DAN: 00:00

I want to mention something right now, it's kind of a strange story. I talked to the National Guard just recently, who spoke to-- in Savannah, Georgia. Okay? And on the way, I have a lady that I'm working with and we kind of came up with this, what we call-- we really got to do something to try to stop this fentanyl stuff. And we've got to get the entire population, advocates, people with analytical, just the general public. We all got to rise up, okay? And she likened it to something called the Dunkirk moment. Now, a lot of you people in the audience are younger and whatnot, and maybe Dunkirk doesn't ring a bell, but during World War Two, the entire British army was in this little town called Dunkirk. And they had sent their army across the English Channel. And all of a sudden these Germans were overwhelming them and they were either going to annihilate them or the entire army was going to surrender. Well, how did they evacuate these people? Initially, they sent some big boats over, the military did, but they didn't have enough boats. Also, the Germans could take that big boat that had 10,000 people that were trying to leave and they would sink that boat. So what happened is, the entire British population got involved and people that had small boats that could carry six people or eight people, and thousands of boats went across the English Channel and they rescued that British army. Well, you know, we need thousands of people to pull together to rescue the kids that are dying from fentanyl. We need everybody on board.

MADDIE: 01:49

Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. I'm Maddie Johannsen and you just heard Dan Schneider, an activist featured in the Netflix documentary The Pharmacist. In the documentary, viewers followed Dan on his search for justice for his son Danny and his subsequent mission of fighting the opioid epidemic. Dan is a data minded pharmacist, so he was in a unique position to recognize OxyContin being overprescribed at the pharmacy and witnessed the alarming rise of overdoses that were happening in his community of St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans. As he witnessed the opioid crisis beginning to unfold, he documented what he observed and used data to not only bring awareness to the problem, but to drive positive change in his community and around the country. I also had a conversation with the directors of The Pharmacist, Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, and that conversation will be featured in our next episode. I'd recommend listening to this episode with Dan Schneider first as it'll help you get a sense of the story told in The Pharmacist documentary before we get a behind the scenes take from Julia and Jenner in the next episode. So let's jump into my conversation with The Pharmacist, Dan Schneider. It's an honor to speak with you. I'm really excited.

DAN: 03:11

Same here. I appreciate the opportunity.

MADDIE: 03:14

Awesome. Yeah. And I can see on the video, I see your Pharmacist hat. I really like that. And then you also have a Pharmacist shirt on as well?

DAN: 03:21

I do. And I'm wearing the color purple because August is overdose awareness. We're not in August now, but I had the shirts printed up and I put it on today because it's a serious subject that we're talking about. Lives are being lost every day. And while I'm at it, in the background, and people can't hear this on the audio, but there's a picture of my son over my shoulder. I think you can see it. And above that is a picture of a bunch of trees that I have called Tunnel of Hope, because we're bringing light at the end of the tunnel. There is light or we will create it.

MADDIE: 03:57

That's great. And if you're comfortable, could you share a little bit about your son as your motivation for your mission to fight against the opioid epidemic?

DAN: 04:06

Absolutely. My son was kind of a peacenik. He didn't fight, he didn't have the tensions. He was interested in drugs. I thought it was basically marijuana, okay? And we worked to try to reduce that or eliminate that. But a lot of kids do that. Okay? We were completely blindsided when he stepped into the world of more serious drugs and then inadvertently-- it's a big story, can't be told right now. But he was murdered while attempting to buy drugs. And I just felt like it was a snapshot of his life, was the worst moment of his life. And I've had bad moments and I didn't get caught, so to speak, much less lose my life in a flash like that. So they also was treated very poorly by the police and maybe even by the public with all the stigma involved. And I just thought, we can use his loss and we can present him in a different way where he can help lead us out of this crisis that we have. So he's been a big motivation, not for his life not to have been lost in vain. And he deserved more than what actually happened to him. I don't think he would have continued. I think if we would have caught it and had rehab or something, I think he would have been one of these people that emerged and we'd look back at it and said it was just one of those experiences. But he didn't get that break. We're going to tell the world about it and we're going to make something good happen.

MADDIE: 05:38

Absolutely. Yeah. I appreciate you sharing. And in The Pharmacist documentary, viewers can see more of that story. And also, as we will see in The Pharmacist, you're a very data minded person. You recognized patterns in your community that signaled the beginning of the opioid crisis. You took steps to document those findings and then you leveraged that data collection to make a difference, as you said, was a big piece of what you wanted to do, including not only bringing awareness to the issue itself, but also influencing the launch of things like the prescription monitoring program and then your nonprofit, Tunnel of Hope, as you mentioned. And--

DAN: 06:19


MADDIE: 06:20

Yeah, and this seems like such a monumental undertaking that you took on that really ramped up when you started to see that influx of OxyContin prescriptions arriving at the pharmacy. And I just think it's interesting because you were in a really unique position to recognize those red flags because you had the training to understand things like medications and appropriate dosage. So let's say if other folks out there see patterns where something is off or they start seeing red flags in their community, just like your training as a pharmacist helped you see red flags signaling the misuse of opioids, what tips do you have for folks to start using their talents and specific training to enact change no matter what the social issue is?

DAN: 07:05

Well, I hope I don't lose track because I wanted to give it something.

MADDIE: 07:09


DAN: 07:10

You mentioned that I used data and I did video recordings and I took notes and I did things. I was not consciously using data. I was doing whatever I took. In hindsight, looking back at it, I was and that kind of data collection and record keeping and being able to refer back-- and this was before the days of computers exactly-- definitely helped me not only solve my son's murder, but it taught me the skills I needed later on to shut down the next doctor. And it also has taught me ways to interact with the public to make change. You have to have-- it's one thing to tell a story and that's important. But you have to have some statistics. You have to have some data to back you up. And this is where I believe your company is-- the people in your field, y'all have an important role to play. Now, again, about tips in a community. Obviously, I was in the right place. I think God kind of put me there. After I solved my son's murder, I wanted to go on a mission. I was mainly going to focus on educating parents and students. But then I had the situation that the police weren't taking care of, and I had a knowledge that almost nobody else had. And so I took it as the right place and the right time. But that leads back to the other part of this is, what I have found now, and it's still the case is, you've got three kind of people in the world. You got people that make things happen and you got people that watch what happened. And then you got people to say, what the hell happened, okay? And so my word is, whatever field you're in and you specialize in, if you on the alert and you're seeking and you're trying to enrich your knowledge, okay, it's there. Many times, I hate to say it, either consciously or subconsciously, we just don't want to get involved. We don't want to stand up and maybe take a little risk or maybe stand out. Okay? We have to do just the opposite. One person can make a difference, usually not by himself, but that person could spark others, okay? And so absolutely, whatever your field is in or whatever you're in, pay attention to what's going on when you see something's wrong, okay? Don't just look the other way and say it's somebody else's responsibility. Take it upon yourself. I kind of learned that what I call hard found wisdom, and I hope others don't have to go through the same type of crisis or tragedy to be woken. Okay? My job right now is to wake the people who haven't went through that tragedy. But we all have a propensity to look the other way, not get involved, take the easy way out. You're never going to accomplish anything special. You're never going to be the type of person you could be, to be a leader and an expert in that field. So that's my message. Go for it. You can make a difference.

MADDIE: 10:21

That's really great advice. And something that struck me earlier that I wanted to mention as well, even things like taking on fighting the stigma like you were mentioning earlier, subtle ways that I've heard you do it in The Pharmacist and listening to other interviews that you've done. And even just now, when you were talking about your son a little bit earlier, and you mentioned first and foremost that he was such a sweet kid and that was just one snapshot of his life. I think that that is making a huge difference in itself, just that one statement of focusing on the person themself rather than something that happened to them, the tragedy of it. I think that that is huge in making a difference as well.

DAN: 11:09

I agree completely. And stigma is a big part of it. We all have to overcome the stigma. And we should know and not-- the entire public doesn't know-- is that it used to be the picture of an addict was some guy sleeping under a bridge, okay? And now we know it's affecting all socioeconomic, all races, okay? And so-called-- we now know it's not a moral issue. Okay, it might be a poor choice early on, but these drugs are so powerful that they actually change the brain. And if it wasn't a disease to begin with, it becomes a disease or condition that's very difficult to overcome once your brain cells change and your inhibitions are lowered. My son under no circumstance would have went into that area to buy that drug, okay, if his mind was not being controlled by the addiction and the draw of that drug. And so, but we got to look at these people as people who are sick. You have compassion for a person that has diabetes, okay? You have compassion for a person that overeats, okay? We can't stigmatize the people with now called substance use disorder, more plainly, addiction problems. Okay? And so you're absolutely right. And I found that out. That was another thing that sort of motivated me along the way and was hard found wisdom. I kind of had that stigma myself. So I'm not going to plead that I was a perfect guy. Prior to my son's death, I kind of thought badly about addicts and addiction, okay? But one thing I noticed early on, I knew my kid and I knew this was an aberration, okay? And I knew something had taken over his brain. Okay? The other thing I knew, though, was he was a drug user, okay, that had an addiction. Okay? When I went to the police, they tried to treat him like a criminal. Almost equal to his killer. And that can't be. Okay? If a person commits violent crimes, okay, but the drug user now that even sometimes commits petty crimes or lies or petty theft or something like that, these people are not really criminals and we got to treat them not like that. We have to put more emphasis on treatment rather than criminalization.

MADDIE: 13:35

There seems to be a big conversation about that happening now. And hopefully there's more and more work that gets done. And something else that you mentioned that I want to get clarification on, you said substance use disorder. I feel like I've always heard substance abuse or addiction. I've heard those kinds of things go hand in hand. But substance use disorder definitely, that language makes it seem more like a disease, which it is. And so I think it definitely is framing it in a better way, I think.

DAN: 14:09

Well, Maddie, you're absolutely right. And I have a little difficulty with that. I'm a plain talking guy. And for so many years we've talked about addicts and addiction. But I have come to learn that that stage of using those words, it's self-staining and it creeps out of me every now and then because addiction is a disease. Okay? But when we can use the fact that these people have a substance use disorder, it does have an impact. And slowly, we've got to change and reduce that stigma to treat it more like a health care issue as opposed to a moral issue or criminal issue. And so I'm working on that. And so I try to deliver that message when I can.

MADDIE: 14:56

Yeah, no, I appreciate you sharing that. I'm learning something from you right now and hopefully our audience is as well. I think that's a really important message.

DAN: 15:04

But I will say this. I imagine you're going to get to this. But we are having an issue right now where the-- if you did it on a growth curve, over the years, we've had addiction going on a steady line and they can't see this. But maybe it was a 45 degree angle, okay, maybe even less than that. Maybe it was 30 degrees. And you can almost predict-- it's sad, I mean, I know we've all been working on it and we pushed it up a little bit some time and down a little bit. We're talking about overdose deaths. Okay? But you could almost predict, if we got 70,000 now, you could draw a graph out, continue the line out, and you could say, well, three years from now, there are going to be this many overdose deaths. And I'm not that type of scientist, but there's-- when a graph turns straight up, I think there's a phrase for that. Okay? We can't predict this anymore because all of a sudden, just a couple of years ago, we would have predicted that maybe overdose deaths would be up to maybe 80,000. Okay. Well, I did a TEDx talk a while back, maybe nine months ago I did a TEDx talk, and in it, I said 80,000. And I was kind of exaggerating a little bit. I was almost-- I said I hope nobody checks me on this because I don't really know if it's 80,000. We anticipate it might be. Well, now we know it's more than 90,000. And we're really talking about almost most certainly it's going to be more than 100,000 and this is over the course of a year. So we have a curve now that is going straight up. And we need to know those statistics. And there are people, the media will call us out, the politicians will call us out. And if we don't have the data, the analytics or whatever you want to call it, to back it up, okay, it makes it hard to get the resources. It makes it hard to get the dollars to work with the problem. So it's an important thing to be able to get that type of data and people do those kind of studies and to have it as quickly as possible. I wish we could get a count every day. Now we know right now, 270 people are dying a day of overdose.

MADDIE: 17:14


DAN: 17:15

It may be more than that, but yet, even though we know the average is 270 a day, we almost wish we could say every day exactly what it is. We almost-- with COVID, they talked about how many hospitalizations they had, how many deaths they had. We heard that constantly, okay? And that was an important issue. Okay? But this issue has fallen in the background. Okay? But we're losing a generation of people with their lives from them. Some of these people are raising kids. Some of these people would be the people that would work for your company. Some of these people would be the people that might be inventors and leaders. Okay? And we got to take this very much more seriously. And if every day they came on with statistics like they did with COVID, that 270 people died and the average age was 32, and maybe show some pictures of these kids, all of a sudden we'd be able to push the politicians and the leaders to do more than they doing and to study more effective ways to do it. So having those kind of stats and being able to plug it into the system can make all the world of difference. We know that.

MADDIE: 18:30

That makes me think about, with COVID being at the forefront of our minds for so long, how has the opioid epidemic changed? And I'm curious, with you being boots on the ground.

DAN: 18:41

What's the impact?

MADDIE: 18:42


DAN: 18:43

Yeah. The impact has really been bad. Now, most people say it's all about-- this is a big issue. It's all about more stress, more anxiety, and lack of community, you might say, lack of people relationship. And all that is very critical. And it's had a big impact. But behind the scenes, if you dig a little deeper, there's some other strange things going on. People take advantage of making money, okay? And the opiate products basically come originally from the opioid plant, opioid poppies. Okay? Well, the demand has been such and they charge more for the opium poppies. They figured now that they can produce this fentanyl, which is really cheap and they can increase their profits. And so they've taken advantage of this situation right now. A person can't hardly buy regular heroin anymore. Now, not that heroin was a good thing, but heroin usually didn't kill you as quickly as fentanyl will. So indirectly, that has happened because of COVID. But I want to emphasize, that's a behind the scenes aspect. The front scene is yeah, stress, anxiety, not being able to get to your treatment center or your recovery center or have group therapy, all those. But combined with-- I hate to say it, this capitalistic greed marketing type of thing. And it's really, really sad. And I got to bring this out, okay, is they even reaching now for our teenagers. And we're talking about a teenager. My son was murdered when he was 22 and he had-- without me knowing, he had progressed to a more serious drug. But when he was 16, okay, he might have been smoking an occasional joint. My stupid thing early on was sneaking alcohol of my daddy's alcohol supply and getting loaded. Well, what if it would have been laced with fentanyl?

MADDIE: 20:49


DAN: 20:50

I wouldn't be talking today. Well, these kids now are getting maybe a Xanax or Percocet. And if it wasn't, say, an actual Percocet, they shouldn't be taking it without a doctor's prescription or getting it from a pharmacy. But they think it's a Percocet or a Xanax. And if we could get more statistics and be able to show every day that this has happened, I think the public would rise up because there is a little more sympathy. We trying to overcome stigma. But there's a little bit more sympathy for a novice 16 year old than for a 30 year old that's been in and out of rehab. Okay? Now we got to have sympathy for him, too, and we got to remove the stigma. But I have to admit, if my son would have been 16 years old and I would have knocked on his door and went in his room and he was dead because he took a Xanax. A lot of parents are seeing that every day. So.

MADDIE: 21:43

That's scary.

DAN: 21:43

So yeah, COVID has contributed to the problem. And on the publicity stage, again, and statistical stage, we're just not talking about it as much if it's not being advertised much because all the energy went to COVID and we-- now that that's hopefully winding down, we got to get back to the forefront on this. Okay?

MADDIE: 22:07


DAN: 22:08

August 27, I'm going to be speaking in front of the Chinese embassy about this issue. And we did it because it's mainly coming from China. Now China doesn't necessarily get the entire blame, but it's a way to bring attention to this thing. And if we could get the media involved and if we can get statistics to back this up, the media will go along with us and every day we ought to be publishing how many people are dying. How many of them are young kids, how many of them are middle age and whatnot so that we can make a difference and we can get everybody to rise up, stop saying what happened or watching what happened. We need people to start making things happen.

MADDIE: 22:52

100%. During the pharmacy documentary, I believe-- and I can fact check this later, but I believe it was the DEA investigator, Iris Myers. She was saying that it was heroin season and now we're in fentanyl season. And then they also showed the graph, as you were saying, that was just complete exponential growth, straight up with fentanyl. Illustrations like that are so important. And I feel like everybody, even if you're not a data visualization person or a data person at all, we've all been-- our brains have been saturated with the COVID graphs of watching the cases go up with that exponential growth. And so just being reminded that fentanyl season is happening in the background of COVID season, I think is-- we need to be talking about this. As you said, this has been going on for decades at this point. I don't know how long fentanyl season specifically has been going on, but.

DAN: 23:45

Well, fentanyl started in 2013, but it really didn't have a big change in the growth curve, okay? It's really been just the last maybe three, four, or five years, that it's really been exponential. Okay? And lots of us in our country, in the media included, we're kind of asleep at the wheel. We're one of those people watching this happen or not even knowing what happened, okay? And it's my job to try to do that, which gets back to my organization, which I think you were going to ask me about.

MADDIE: 24:21


DAN: 24:22

Yeah, the name of my organization is-- it's got kind of two names. That confuses people a little bit. My website is I named it that because I used to drive on the way to work every day when I was trying to solve my son's murder and when I was trying to put doctors out of business. I was trying to develop the pharmacy monitor program. When I was doing all my efforts, I would drive on my way to work through a grove of trees that formed a tunnel in this little highway on my way to work. And I would pray in that tunnel and I would pray, please, God, help me do this. Help me do that. I don't know what I'm doing. Put the words in my mouth, give me-- what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to do this? Well, it also envisions that there's light at the end of the tunnel. And I always want to believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. And I also want to believe maybe we could create light. So my website is Tunnel of Hope and my foundation is Tunnel of Hope. Okay? But actually, when people sign into my website, they actually joining something that I now have named The Pharmacist People's Lobby.

MADDIE: 25:31


DAN: 25:32

You see, because what I have found is, there's a lot of volunteers out there working and they're really doing most of the work that is trying to keep a handle on this thing. The government's involved in bureaucracy and they don't know what they're doing and they have special interests. When the criminal side and the judicial side and the medical side, the insurance company side and the pharmaceutical industry, they are driving the politicians the way they want it to go. And it's not to the benefit of our cause on reducing this what I call opioid and addiction pandemic. Okay? We need a force that could be at the table, that has clout, that has large numbers. But I want to be able to sit down before Congress or a state senator when there's an issue coming up. And I want to have a seat at the table and yeah, they're going to look at me. He lost his son. He's The Pharmacist. I got a little notoriety and a little bit of a platform. They'll listen to me. But if I can say I got a million followers or I got, in a state, if it's 50,000 followers and these people were sending emails to you, okay? And these people might be able to have an effect on your election, then we can get real action. And we just don't have that right now. And I'm doing everything I can do to help that happen. So anybody out there that's listening, go to and sign in and help me and my wife Annie make a difference, like we did in the docuseries. And I will say this, we have a movie in the works that I'm kind of proud of and I think it will again elevate the platform and we're going to try to mix in some exposure, okay? And absolutely, people have to document and keep track of things. Even that docuseries would not have been what it would have been if I wouldn't have had tapes and videos and backup information, okay? So to speak, data, I guess, if that's what you would call it.

MADDIE: 27:35


DAN: 27:35

And so it's an important thing for those people out there that are working on those things, to be able to get accurate data as fast as possible to the advocates or the activists to help us inform the public and make a difference.

MADDIE: 27:51

Absolutely. And you mentioned a little bit earlier, having more of a focus on rehabilitation instead of criminalization. Can you tell us some examples that you've seen maybe around the country or in other parts of the world of programs that are working really well to do this?

DAN: 28:11

Absolutely. And this is statistics again. My son was murdered in 1999. In 1999 Michigan that had about 10 million people, they had about 1000 overdose deaths. There's this little country called Portugal across the ocean. And at that time, they had a population of about 10 million also. And they had 400 overdose deaths. Not as much as Michigan, but still, in their little country, they took it seriously and it looked like the problem was getting worse. They had tried previously to increase the penalties, to put users in jail, to try to convince these people, you can't do this or you're going to wind up in jail, okay? Well, they found it didn't work. So they went to their medical community, okay, and they decided they were going to change. They were going to divert all the energy and resources or most of it to treatment and rehabilitation, prevention, education. They were going to shift, instead of having 90% of the money going to criminalization aspects and judicial aspects, okay, and jail, okay, they were going to shift it to 90% to the health care issue. Well, within years, Portugal, and even to this day, they reduced their overdose deaths by 90%. To this day, they have an average of about 50 overdose deaths a year. Meanwhile, Michigan, that was at 1000, is now over 3000. Our country back then as a whole, had 16,000 overdose deaths in 1999. 16,000. And we're now going to exceed 100,000. So we've had three, four, five hundred percent increase and Portugal has had a 90% decrease. Now Portugal is a different country. I don't know if that system is going to work. We might have to have a modification of that, but we think they're going in the right direction. Okay? But it's a hard thing to change. If we can get the public on board again, if we can get the right kind of-- if the whole public knew that Portugal had a 90% reduction and we had a 500% increase and they had 50 overdose deaths a year and we got 100,000 overdose deaths a year, okay, just maybe, some people out there would say, well, let's just lock them up and that'll solve the problem. Let's just say, just say no, okay? It's way more complicated what we thought in the past. And they haven't worked-- the definition of what they-- of idiocy or whatever it is, is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well, it's not only different results, the results are getting worse based upon what we've been doing. So I'm a little long winded sometimes. So.

MADDIE: 31:09

No, I think that's so important and really good point. I mean, tying it back to thinking of it as a disease, just say no, you can't just say no to COVID and you can't-- you know what I mean? It's--

DAN: 31:21


MADDIE: 31:22


DAN: 31:23

You just gave me a little tool just now. That will be in--yeah, seriously. I guess I was bouncing all around it, but you've got a concise answer there. Well, I used to say, too, if we now call it a disease and some people still argue the point, but we are starting to get a consensus that it at least becomes a disease. Well, would you put a person with a disease in jail?

MADDIE: 31:47

Exactly. Great point.

DAN: 31:50

That's another point. But you had a simple way of saying it, so I like that.

MADDIE: 31:56

You can use that. Yeah.

DAN: 31:59

I borrow from everybody.

MADDIE: 32:00

Perfect. Good. So if you have any advice for maybe the kids or the young adults out there, what would that advice be?

DAN: 32:12

Well, I will give the advice and I do a little share of talking in schools. And I'm an advocate right now trying to get the school system, the public school systems, to incorporate in ninth grade, a mandatory subject which will not only try to motivate or say things to kids, but really will have the time to educate them on what these drugs do to your brain. And the course would have social responsibility, personal responsibility, bullying, non-violent conflict resolution, understanding addiction, talking about the evils of it, but not just the evils. Okay? I could talk about, look what happened to my son. Okay? But these young kids, they don't think it could happen to them. Okay? So although we have to try to do that, and I may be partnering real soon with a group called Victoria's Voice. This is a couple, David and Jackie Siegel, and they own Westlake Resorts. He's a billionaire. They lost an 18 year old daughter. So they are on a mission right now and I may partner with them and they got programs to go into the schools to try to motivate these kids not to do drugs and educate. And I'm all for that. And I'm going to try to help them with that. But we really need a class, too, that is mandatory. That isn't just just either a club or an occasional meeting in the gym or auditorium. So, but I would say, if anybody will listen to me, any kid I get a chance to, okay? And I was, by the way, in a gymnasium with middle schoolers just about three or four weeks ago talking about the one pill that kills. And I ask these 200 kids, I said, how many y'all aware of what fentanyl is? And I only had about 10 hands that went up. And then I said, How many y'all, though, have known somebody that overdosed and died or that has had serious issues? And maybe 20 or 30 percent of them raised their hands. Okay? Then I said, how many of y'all know about these fake tablets that are laced with fentanyl? And it's killing some kids with one pill? No hands went up. So we definitely have to get that message out. I now have our school system doing public service announcement with a video of me trying to just do that. But it's a complicated issue. We got to get the parents involved. There needs to be a course. It's every bit as important as geography or history. We are losing too many kids now. When maybe only 10% of kids were young kids or that when we only had 16,000 overdose deaths nationally, maybe you couldn't invest that effort in school because they need to do math. They need to know English. They need to know history. Okay? But we're now losing 100,000 and if this graph, now, this exponential graph, and there's a name for that graph when it does that. Okay? But I hate to say it, if this thing now does-- if that graph continues that rate in another year, it'll be 200,000. Or 300,000. This is a generation of young people. The ramifications are immense. And if one person dies, there's 100 people that were involved in that. So when you got 100,000 people that overdose and die, multiply that times 100 as to how many people were affected, and it's so tragic. That particular couple that I talked about, he resigned from his own company right after that. And now they have dedicated their lives to try to do whatever they can do. And they have resources now that I don't have. But I may wind up being part of it. I mean, I want to help them any way I can. And I think they're going to help me any way they can help me. But we need a Dunkirk thing. We need a million little boats, okay? And that's what I'm about.

MADDIE: 36:19

Yeah, no, definitely. Yeah. I'm so glad that we were able to amplify your story to get more little boats backing you up for sure, because you've done so much and you definitely deserve the support for such an important mission. I want to be respectful of your time. We're just about out of time. Is there anything else that you'd like to share before we hop off?

DAN: 36:42

I guess the only thing else I would say is, I talked about the Dunkirk story, but I also sometimes talk about the Walter Cronkite effect. Walter Cronkite started talking, during the Vietnam War when it was going along, he started talking about how many people were dying every day and he started showing pictures of these people dying. First thing you know, some of the college campuses start having protests. Eventually, eventually through the media. And back then, he was kind of in control of a lot of the media, okay? And but eventually it got through and a politician had a better chance of getting elected if he was against the war. Previous to him speaking out on this thing, a person couldn't get elected if he spoke out against the war. We need to have the same kind of Walter Cronkite effect in this. We need the media and make people aware of the magnitude of the problem. And if we do that with other leaders like me that go around and other advocates that are working really hard about this, we have to do something to change the direction. It's not going to end overnight, it's never going to go to zero. But we've got to stop that curve. It's scary. It's always been bad. But this is a nightmare scenario. And people got to realize the urgency and they got to step up.

MADDIE: 38:01

Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Dan, for being so open and yeah, just telling your story. I think it's so important and I'm really excited that we can get it out there.

DAN: 38:14

I don't know if you'll get this in, too, though, but Jenner and Julia Furst and the people at Cinemark that helped me produce the documentary, they did an incredible job. Along the way, I wasn't so sure about that. I wasn't even sure about the name. Let me tell you, they knew more than I do in that particular case. They did an incredible job. And it's given me a platform now. And I think it's going to lead to a movie, but it's going to lead to maybe making a dent in what I call moving the needle, but moving it down. And they got another producer there named Mike Gasparro. He's a great guy, too. They did a great job with this story. Most people that watch it, okay, when they get to the end of one, there's like a hook and they can't stop watching it. Many of them binge watch this thing. So.

MADDIE: 39:02

Oh, I binged it when it first came out last year. And I also binged it again when I found out that I got to talk to you and Julia and Jenner. And it was, yeah, same effect. I watched it twice and both times binged it. It was wonderful storytelling and you are a perfect key subject for it. So and really quick too, about the movie. Can you share any details?

DAN: 39:25

So the movie right now, the producer is a guy named David Permut. He did a movie called Hacksaw Ridge and it did real, real well. And it's my understanding they're working with directors now and screenwriters. And they even went out to a potential actor and it was Brad Pitt.

MADDIE: 39:45


DAN: 39:46

And so we don't-- nobody has signed up yet. So that may not happen. But I really hope that it's viewed by hundreds of people and not just for the notoriety. And I've really made almost nothing in this thing, I've spent way more of my life and my time. Okay? But it'll spread a message. I have found out that the media-- I would not be speaking to you right now if I would not have had that show. And a lot of people now know a little bit more about the addiction issue and are tuned in a little bit more. Well, if we can build upon this and have a movie and then we might have interviews with Julia and Jenner on The Today show talking about the makings of this thing. Okay? And maybe I'm sitting there with Brad Pitt and we talking about the things I had to overcome and the risks I had to take. And but we also are going to be delivering a message out there that my family and me was just one family. A million others lost a kid like that. When you see my wife crying in that video and when you hear her in the background, the audiotapes capture her saying, God, why did you take my baby? Okay? Well, guess what? If you could record what takes place in every house that loses a kid, you would hear a very similar message. But most people didn't record it, particularly 20 years ago.

MADDIE: 41:12


DAN: 41:12

God had something to do with me saving them tapes. Okay? Those tapes easily could have been destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.

MADDIE: 41:21


DAN: 41:21

But they weren't. Okay? And there's a reason for that. And that really helped our documentary. And it's going to help the movie. And I think it's going to save lives. And so I'm kind of a stumblebum. I don't know what I was doing, okay? I didn't really know I was a data collector or analytical guy, whatever the hell it was. But I know that's important now.

MADDIE: 41:44

Absolutely. Yeah. And it also just-- your vulnerability and sharing that with the world, I think is so special. And I definitely, I think it is definitely going to make a difference. It already has. So, yeah. I really appreciate you being so open.

DAN: 42:00

Well, thank you, Maddie. You've done a good job yourself and let's hope this message gets out and saves some lives. And I hope it actually helped me build that registry that I want, that people's lobby that isn't about profit. This is not a lobby that's for profit. This is a lobby to have influence to save lives.

MADDIE: 42:23

Great. Well, yeah, we'll be sure to link to all of these resources in the show notes as well for our audience to easily find them.

DAN: 42:28

I'll give you one other thing. I don't know if you want to add it into the links or not, but.

MADDIE: 42:31


DAN: 42:32

But my social media is-- I have what they call a supporters group, and it's a Facebook group and it's Supporters of The Pharmacist, Dan Schneider.

MADDIE: 42:45


DAN: 42:46

And that's another way that people can go on and it's interactive and people can share their stories. And a lot of those people also join my lobby, but they can find out about what's going on. Now, in my lobby, I also send them information from time to time and I will ask them to respond to certain political situations and be aware of what's going on. So, yeah.

MADDIE: 43:10

That's great.

DAN: 43:11

And there's many other ways of doing it. But I'm learning. I started with Facebook because I'm an old guy, an old fart, okay, all right?

MADDIE: 43:18

It works. Facebook works.

DAN: 43:20

Well, I got a lady that's working on my TikTok following and I got another lady working on an Instagram following. So, I don't know too much about these things, but I'm going to get others to help me out because it takes all age groups. By the way, when I mentioned it, also I mentioned, I got a relationship with Miss America, 2020, a girl named Camille Schrier, was a pharmacy student. She became Miss America the same year my docuseries came out and we've went around the country speaking together.

MADDIE: 43:50


DAN: 43:51

She's doing an HSO tour now with the Army, I believe it is, or the Air Force, okay, around the country. But she's a dynamo and part of her platform is the same as mine. It was kind of a God thing that we connected at the same time.

MADDIE: 44:06

That's so cool.

DAN: 44:07

They call us The Beauty and the Beast. I'll leave it up to you to name who was the beauty and who was the beast.

MADDIE: 44:16

That sounds like an awesome partnership. Yeah. Yeah. What a coincidence that she was a pharmacy student and everything. That's so cool.

DAN: 44:23

Well, on top of this, she gets to be Miss America for two years because they didn't have a Miss America pageant.

MADDIE: 44:29

Oh, interesting.

DAN: 44:31

So she's Miss America 2020 and 2021.

MADDIE: 44:35

So the extra-- yeah. That extra exposure. How perfect is that?

DAN: 44:39

And actually she's only kind of working part time-ish. They wanted her to fulfill the full role. She wants to get back at pharmacy school and finish her education. Okay?

MADDIE: 44:50

That's cool.

DAN: 44:51

And she already has a biochemistry degree. Okay?

MADDIE: 44:55


DAN: 44:55

And guess what her talent was when she won Miss America? And after you can look this up yourself on YouTube.

MADDIE: 45:02


DAN: 45:02

Guess. Her talent was she performed a chemical experiment on stage.

MADDIE: 45:07

Oh, wow. I love that. I mean, all of these things, I think there's too many things going on for it to be coincidental. I feel like you're meant to kind of have this platform and these connections. The universe just really is supporting this mission. It's very important.

DAN: 45:22

It's all about my son. And it was the same thing with the billionaire who's involved in trying to do this. Okay? It's all about making some sense of this, trying to prevent other families from having these kind of tragedies, trying to save some lives. And I guess, make sure that our kids didn't die in vain or any of these kids that have died in vain. It's just such an important thing to us, for me and my wife to try to do whatever we can do to turn that graph into a reverse exponential.

MADDIE: 46:03

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

DAN: 46:07

If you do Julia and Jenner, tell them I said hi.

MADDIE: 46:11

Absolutely. I definitely will. Thanks for listening. Dan just mentioned Julia and Jenner, and he's referring to the directors of The Pharmacist documentary on Netflix that he worked so closely with to get this story out there. As I mentioned earlier, I interviewed Julia and Jenner, and you'll hear that conversation in our next episode where I'll chat with them about the use of data in filmmaking. Be sure to check out Dan's foundation at And for links to any of the other resources mentioned in this episode, check out our show notes at Catch you next time.




This episode of Alter Everything was produced by Maddie Johannsen (@MaddieJ).
Special thanks to @jesperwinkelhorst for the theme music track, and @TaraM for our album artwork.