In the News: ‘Gremlins’ Analogy Grabs the Attention of Media During New York Opioid Trial

As legal arguments continued to unfold in Touro College’s law school auditorium in Central Islip, Long Island, Simmons Hanly Conroy Partner Jayne Conroy, who is representing Suffolk County in the ongoing New York opioid litigation, presented a compelling illustration to jurors, which caught the attention of the national media.

The illustration depicts a scale upon which rests a downtrodden individual on one side, labeled “pleasure,” and 10 dancing and frolicking gremlins on the other, labeled “pain.” The scale is tipped heavily in the direction of pain, or the gremlins.

Week two of the New York opioid trial has seen several expert witnesses testify before the jury, including Dr. Anna Lembke, who is an addiction specialist at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Under questioning from Conroy, Lembke was asked to describe to the jury in a “digestible fashion” how opioid addiction can take hold of an individual.

Using the illustration as a guide, Lembke described how the pleasure derived from opioids creates a deep imbalance within the brain, “[tipping] the balance to the side of pleasure.” Under questioning from Conroy, Lembke continued, “I like to think of that as these little gremlins hopping on the pain side of the balance to bring it level again.”

The illustration also refers to an argument being made by Conroy, which likens the process of taking lawfully prescribed opioids to that of unleashing “gremlins” in the brain chemistry of vulnerable patients. Once these gremlins are released, so to speak, they wreak havoc on patients, leaving them hooked on exceptionally dangerous prescription narcotics.

In the trial, Conroy and fellow plaintiff attorney Hunter Shkolnik of Napoli Shkolnik, who is representing Nassau Country, are joined by State Attorney General Letitia James.

Lembke is the author of Drug Dealer, MD: How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop.

The second week of the New York opioid trial, which is expected to last several months, concluded with additional witness testimony on Friday, July 16.

A Full List of Week Two Coverage:

Top national and regional media placements from the past week presented in reverse chronological order.


  • Barron’s 
  • CVN
  • Law360


  • Law360 
  • Newsday 


  • Law360
  • Legal Reader
  • Newsday


  • Newsday
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