It’s Saturday night and Blake Shelton’s “Redneck Girl” echoes throughout a country dance club in Tampa, Florida. Seventeen-year-old Douglas Dodd and his friends from Hudson High are snorting oxycodone pain pills and drinking rum. A bouncer spots the teenagers and escorts them outside, where he denies their fake drivers licenses. A county sheriff’s cruiser pulls up to the club and Dodd’s fight-or-flight instincts kick into high gear. He takes off running. Bouncers, deputies, K-9 German shepherds,and a helicopter pursue him through four lanes of heavy traffic and a maze of storage units and trailers.
Are we still talking fake IDs? Not a chance. This crew, which called themselves the Barbaras Criminal Enterprise, included Dodd, his best friend Lance Barabas and several of their other friends from high school. “Federal prosecutors would later call us one of the largest suppliers of the ever-increasing oxycodone epidemic,” Dodd writes in his debut book, Generation Oxy: From High School Wrestlers to Pain Pill Kingpins. “And I had roughly one hundred of the powerful painkillers in a metal vial hanging from the chain around my neck, barely covered by my shirt – a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence in the state of Florida.”
In his “true crime memoir,” Dodd runs through the three-year rise-and-fall of the enterprise – first immortalized in Guy Lawson’s 2015 Rolling Stone article The Dukes Of Oxy – which included a crew of high school and college wrestlers turned drug peddlers. In the book, he describes how they would clear $40,000 worth of “roxies” and “oxys” per month by transporting them via FedEx and UPS throughout Florida and into Tennessee, New York and Alaska. Dodd admits his wrongdoings, but blames pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, for misleading doctors into increasing oxycodone prescriptions. “An estimated two hundred thousand people have lost their lives to oxycodone overdoses since 1996 and nearly ten million Americans are currently addicted to some form of oxycodone; making it the most abused pharmaceutical drug in US history,” Dodd writes. “Of course, my friends and I knew nothing about this history at the time. We were just looking to have some fun and make some good money.”
Of course, that fun would come to an end. In October 2010, a federal grand jury issued a sealed indictment against Dodd, the Barabas brothers, Sullivan, and nine others. DEA agents arrest Dodd at his grandmother’s house, where he had 1,000 oxycodone pills, $90,000 sin a duffel bag, a Sig Sauer and a Smith & Wesson. Three years ago, Dodd was released from Coleman Federal Correctional Facility. “In the years since my release, some got clean, found good jobs, and are enjoying their lives,” Dodd writes. “Others haven’t changed a bit. And a few even got worse.” Meanwhile, Barbaras remains in Miami Correctional Facility Complex until 2022.
The now 29-year-old Dodd says that he currently lives on his own in Tampa, where he works a full-time construction job and studies business and communications at a local college. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, he talked about the opioid epidemic, keeping in touch with his old friends and what’s next in his journey.
Why did you write Generation Oxy?
I wanted to write the book because I was thinking about redemption. I started writing the book three and a half years ago and I wanted to get it out during the OxyContin craziness of today. I wanted to write about how the pharmaceutical companies, the FDA, the DEA, and the politicians are all complicit. They are literally profiting off of drugs and kids are going to prison.
What does Lance and the rest of the enterprise think about the book?
There’s mixed emotions about it. In the beginning, the majority of the guys were laughing and doubtful, but as things progressed they wanted to be more involved. Me and my buddies still talk. I’m not allowed to see Lance in the Miami Correctional Facility, but we talk over the phone and through email every two weeks.
There’s stuff in the book that I don’t even like about myself. But I had to say it all to say tell the true story. I’m now working on a second book about how to overcome drug addiction.
In the foreword, Mark Mallouk, the screenwriter of Black Mass who is now working on the adaptation of Lawson’s Rolling Stone article for an upcoming movie, writes, “Generation Oxy is a monument to collective irresponsibility…But Douglas Dodd’s story is not possible without the moral and ethical failings of society’s most important institutions” including the state of Florida, FedEx, medical malpractice and Purdue Pharma. Do you agree with his point of view?
I absolutely believe it was ‘collective irresponsibility.’ It’s not feasible to believe that a handful of teenagers created the nationwide OxyContin epidemic. The Sackler family [that owns Purdue] was able to reinvent and market a powerful pain pill. Those medications should be for people damn near on their deathbed. Eighteen year olds shouldn’t be able to get prescriptions from a doctor. I’m not taking away that what we did was wrong but at the same time, we were addicts. We liked to get high. We were partying. The opportunity to sell presented itself and it was too good to pass up. But we weren’t going to Mexico and getting boatloads or drugs or flying drugs in from Colombia. We were going straight to the doctors and getting it.
You write, “I wasn’t born a drug dealer. I became one.” Do you think that you’re a product of your upbringing and your surroundings?
From the minute we’re born, we are indoctrinated. The chances of a child being brought up in a household of doctors will enhance the chances of becoming a doctor. And the same can be said about a child being surrounded in a drug-induced environment. The chance of drug abuse is higher. I was exposed to drugs at a young age. It was everywhere. I believe we are product of our environment, but only to an extent. There’s always an exception to the rule, but as the saying goes, Show me your friends and I’ll tell you the type of person you are.
The plan was to “save a half-million dollars” by the time you got a college degree and then quit. After making money and surviving so many close calls, why didn’t you stop?
I wish I got out. I knew the ramifications, but I was so stupid and reckless. When you’re dealing with that amount of pills and money anything could happen. The pill addiction was one extreme that I struggled with. But I was also dealing with the addiction to the amounts of money coming in. I was saving money and felt like I was on the way of getting out.
Looking back, do you think you had a role in what has become a national oxycodone problem? Do you feel responsible for creating addicts?
I don’t feel like we created any addicts. It was Purdue Pharma that originally created the pill to protect its bottom line and then marketed it as the new miracle drug. Me and my buddies were high school and college kids all doing drugs and looking to make money. To blame us, would be like blaming the clerk at the convenience store for selling alcohol to an individual who then gets a DUI or kills someone while driving. At the end of the day, it’s silly to think that teenagers are responsible for individuals who choose to make bad decisions by getting high on a substance.
How do you see yourself today? Has it been hard to leave the drug game and be a normal guy?
I just want to be normal. I just want a good girl. I want a 40-hour-a-week job. I want a family. Right now, I have my own house, a car, and I have one college degree already. In one aspect, I’m so far ahead. But my mind’s always running. There’s a dual side of me. I want to see myself as someone that never gives up and as someone who has lived through struggles and has faced tremendous adversity. Sometimes I’m miserable. Sometimes I’m happy. There’s too many question marks on what lies ahead.
What’s your next step?
Ten percent of the book’s proceeds are going toward charities and I want to open up a foundation and a drug treatment center called Redemption. I’m going to finish school, get a part in the movie and travel the U.S. doing speaking engagements. So far, I’m scheduled for two talks in New York in December. Ultimately, I want to be a figure that goes around and speaks on drug abuse. I also want to be on Shark Tank – I’ve got a couple products that I want to put into effect one at a time. But you know, there’s only so much time in a day.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.