Painkiller: Is Matthew Stavron Based on a Real Person? How Did He Die?

Netflix’s ‘Painkiller’ tells the horrific true story of how one corporation’s greed ruined the lives of thousands of people and created an opioid crisis in America. The show follows Richard Sackler, who only cares about making more and more money through his company, Purdue Pharma. He comes up with OxyContin, a drug marketed as having less than a one percent chance of addiction. This, however, proves to be a lie, and as more and more doctors prescribe it to their patients, more and more cases of addiction come to light.

The show also focuses on other aspects of the story, like the people who fight to make Purdue and Sackler pay for their wrongdoings, the salespeople who work for Purdue but don’t realize the extent of their actions, and most importantly, the common people, whose lives are ruined by OxyContin and its unregulated use. While the show fictionalizes some aspects of the story, it reminds the audience that the victims of the opioid crisis are real. Matthew Stavron was one of them. Here’s everything you need to know about him.

How Did Matthew Stavron Die?

Matthew Stavron died on September 16, 2007, at the age of 24, due to a drug overdose in his house in San Clemente. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Matthew loved dirt biking and loved motocross. When he was 13, he had an accident where he suffered a compound leg fracture. He was given morphine to deal with the pain, and this is where things took a bad turn for him. Over the next few years, he had several injuries and received pain medication. He became addicted to it, and for the next decade, he was in and out of rehab.


By 2007, Matthew started to get better after spending a summer in rehab. He was clean for three months and was engaged to his girlfriend. According to his family, this was the best he’d been in years. He would have stayed in rehab, but his fiancee had an accident in which she broke her neck. Matthew came back home to take care of her. This turned out to be a wrong move because he relapsed two weeks later. It was later found that Matthew took a two-hour round trip to visit Dr. Lisa Tseng, a doctor in Rowland Heights, who wrote him a prescription for a mix of drugs.

A couple of days later, Matthew was found on the bathroom floor of his house, overdosed on OxyContin, Soma, and Xanax. The prescriptions were traced to Dr. Tseng. Records showed that she had written a prescription for 80 mg of OxyContin, which is the maximum strength of the drugs intended for people in extreme pain. Matthew didn’t have any injuries that would warrant such a prescription. He bought 30 tablets off the prescription, of which only four remained two days later.

An investigation into Dr. Tseng was launched, and it turned out that Matthew wasn’t the only one to get a fake prescription from her. Many people came to her and paid her to write medications for them, which she did, without examining them and investigating whether they even needed them. Reportedly, several people had tried to get her to see reason and told her about the addiction of their loved ones. But it did nothing to stop her.

In 2016, Dr. Tseng was convicted of second-degree murder for the deaths of three of her patients who had died of an overdose. She received 30 years to life in prison. “I cannot imagine what you have gone through. I have been – and will forever be – praying for all of you,” Tseng said following her sentencing. At the time, she was on notice about the death of three other patients, one of whom was Matthew Stavron.

After the heartbreaking loss of their son, Matthew’s parents have focused on using his story to help others. They wish to reach out to young people, especially kids, who are battling an addiction and need help. Matthew also wanted to do something to help people like him. He had planned a project called Beyond the Grave, which was supposed to be “a ministry that targeted kids like him who struggled with drug use.” Now, Matthew’s family and friends have continued the work he dreamed of and have dedicated themselves to helping others.

Read More: Painkiller: Is Cassy Chism Based on a Real Person? How Did She Die?