February 6, 2023

Alex Murdaugh & The Reality of Addiction in High Places

What part did opioid addiction play in this unraveling story of Alex Murdaugh? And what does this case have to teach us about opioid addiction in high places? 

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Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on September 26, 2023

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The Murdaugh Dynasty

For nearly a century, the Murdaughs reigned over the Lowcountry of South Carolina, earning themselves the title of “Kings of Lowcountry.”

With Randolph Murdaugh III, Alex Murdaugh’s father, serving as Solicitor of the 14th Circuit, the chief prosecutor for the five counties in the southeast corner of the state, and his son and great-grandfather having founded the law firm PMPED, the Murdaughs had immense power over the justice system in the area.

The Murdaughs operated as county solicitors for generations (also known as prosecutors) while also having the ability to go after civil cases in their Hampton firm.

In Hampton, SC, everyone knew the Murdaughs, and many feared crossing them due to their power and influence.

Now, things have changed. Since a 2019 boating accident allegedly caused by his son Paul Murdaugh, the alleged crimes of Alex Murdaugh have begun to come to light. 

Each twist and turn of this unraveling story is more shocking than the last. There is no shortage of news, new investigations, or angles to be explored when it comes to this family. 

On Trial for a Double Murder

Alex Murdaugh is on trial in Hampton, SC, for the murder of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and his son Paul Murdaugh in 2021.

The prosecution argues that the stresses from the boating accident, plus all of his financial fraud coming to light, was the motive for the killings.

He’s accused of killing them to gain sympathy, avoid criminal charges, and obtain Maggie’s estate of 5+ million dollars.

The judge presiding over the case ruled that his other crimes may be brought into the court as evidence for motive, and witnesses testify to the financial crimes allegedly committed by Murdaugh.

While Murdaugh has pled guilty to many of the financial cases brought against him, he pled not guilty to the murders of his wife and son.

What drugs was Alex Murdaugh Using?

According to Paul Murdaugh’s lawyer, Dick Harpootlian, opioid addiction is the cause for Alex’s financial crimes (the ones he’s pled to), which include a botched assisted suicide attempt in which Alex allegedly paid a long-time friend, Curtis Smith, to shoot him on the side of the road so his son Buster Murdaugh could get a 10 million dollar insurance payout.


Many strongly feel that Alex lies about being addicted to opioids or attempting to use his addiction to gain sympathy.

However, Alex claims he has been addicted to opioids for over 20 years.

At first glance, and from someone in recovery myself, the financial crimes that Alex Murdaugh committed could be fueled by opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction is costly, and people are known for spending vast amounts on acquiring opioids.

The high costs would make sense if Alex Murdaugh dealt primarily with pharmaceutical drugs.

And there seems to be true to his claims of opioid addiction (or at least opioid involvement), as South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced that a State Grand Jury had indicted Alex Murdaugh and Curtis Edward Smith for criminal conspiracy related to narcotics.

Drug Charges Brought Against Murdaugh 

A Grand Jury has brought charges against Murdaugh, Smith, and possibly others, accusing them of participating in a drug operation involving Oxycodone, Meth, and Marijuana.

Former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon believes that further developments could arise due to the scope of the allegations.

"Now he is alleged to have been involved in a lot of major drug crimes with another and my expectation would be given the scale here that’s being alleged there would have to be others who would necessarily be involved with either selling these drugs or being involved with obtaining them, one can only speculate where this might go.”

Alex Murdaugh Spent $50,000 a Week on Drugs? 

You read that correctly. Alex Murdaugh claims to have spent $50,000 a week on pills during a SLED interview that was replayed during the murder trial. 

Obviously, this seems pretty impossible. There is speculation that this was also because he was buying and selling the pills through Curtis Eddie Smith. 

However, it’s clear that his usage was out of control. In text messages, Alex’s family confronted him about BAGS of pills that they found in their home. 

Just more unbelievable information that has come from this story. 

What We Can Learn About Opioid Addiction From This Story

This chaotic and ever-evolving story has much to teach us about the far reaching effects of opioid addiction and how much destruction can be caused by it.

Here are a few things that I’d like to point out as potential lessons from this situation.

Opioid Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate

Opioid addiction reaches far and wide, affecting all levels of society.

Although most people tend to think that drug abuse is limited to those on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder, the truth is that it can touch even lawyers, politicians, and others with higher social statuses.

Despite all the power and prestige Alex had, it did not shield him from becoming addicted to opioids. He is a prime example of addiction in high places. 

Opioid Addiction Can and Will Cause Destruction

Opioid addiction causes an immense amount of destruction. There’s no telling what kind of illegal activities Alex Murdaugh was involved in surrounding drugs, but it’s safe to say that it was possibly on a much larger scale than we can imagine. 

The investigations into potential drug trafficking are ongoing.

In a jail phone call, Alex admitted that he had been struggling with opioid addiction for 20 years and had been reflecting on how things transpired and how his life was destroyed.

And again, Alex Murdaugh had everything. He had status, education, money, power, and a beautiful family. 

Today, he is a disgraced and disbarred lawyer who is facing a lifetime behind bars and may be found guilty of murdering his wife and son.

Was this all because of opioid addiction? Probably not. There is a major character issue at play here, and that’s obvious. 

However, opioid addiction certainly does seem to play a role in this story. It was clear that Alex manipulated everyone around him, stole millions of dollars from vulnerable clients, and used his trust and high standing in society to perpetrate his crimes. 

I want to emphasize that while opioid addiction is a part of this story, it is not an excuse for any alleged criminal actions, especially a double murder. 

Opioid Addiction Destroys Relationships & Breaks Trust

Alex’s long-time friend and fellow lawyer, Chris Wilson, got on the stand during the current double murder trial and shared how Alex had lied and deceived him during a legal settlement in order to misappropriate funds.

Wilson stated that during a conversation, Alex began to cry and confessed to his guilt, stating that he had been battling a long-time addiction to opioids.

It’s clear from Wilson’s testimony that he was extremely disappointed and heartbroken over Alex’s admission. 

Now, as a result of Alex’s actions, Wilson is likely going to be tied up in criminal investigations, which put his license to practice law at risk.

In one case in which the two were working together, Alex was able to misappropriate millions of dollars.

How This Story Has Gained International Attention

The Murdaugh story has gained international attention for many reasons, and opioid addiction is certainly not at the top of the list. 

This story shines a light on the broken legal system in South Carolina and how there still very much exists a “Good Ol’ Boy” network where it’s all about your family name, who you know, and calling in favors. 

Additionally, there are several suspicious deaths surrounding this family that are still being investigated to this day.  

The elements of mass fraud also have their place in garnering attention, but it’s more all of these elements mixed together that make this story so interesting. 

The New Netflix Documentary

A documentary just aired on Netflix today detailing the Murdaugh story including the possibility that Paul had a problem with alcohol that wasn’t addressed by his family. 

The documentary   also dives into the family’s attempts to cover up the truth surrounding Paul’s death and the possible involvement of individuals from their inner circle. The documentary puts all of these pieces together in a way that really 

The documentary makes it clear that South Carolina isn’t immune to corruption and that powerful families like the Murdaughs can get away with murder if they.

Alex Murdaugh Found Guilty of Murdering Paul and Maggie 

On March 2nd, 2023 Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of murdering his wife and son, along with possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime. The sentence was two consecutive life sentences life. 

No one spoke on behalf of the victims, likely because the Murdaugh family does not believe that Alex murdered his family.
 

Alex spoke at his sentencing, proclaiming his innocence. His defense team has stated that they are planning to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. 

“The Monster You Become”

Judge Clifton Newman had some strong words for Alex Murdaugh at his sentencing. After Alex proclaimed his innocence Judge Clifton stated that “it might not have been you, it might have been the monster you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 60 opioid pills. Maybe you become another person. I’ve seen that before. The person standing before me was not the person that committed the crime. Though it’s the same individual.”

About Opioid Treatment 

If you or someone you love is addicted to opioids, it’s important to find an opioid drug rehab that can help. Early intervention in opioid addiction is key. 

SOURCES

[1] Alex Murdaugh charged in money laundering and drug scheme

Published: 2/6/2023

Updated: 3/3/2023

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert
RECOVERY WRITER & ADVOCATE

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director
CLINICAL DIRECTOR & REVIEWER

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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