EXCLUSIVE: Stephen Belber has been hired to script The Needle and The Damage Done for Mike Tollin and Peter Guber which is based on journalist Paul Solotaroff’s article on the opioid epidemic. The project is now being done at USA Networks through UCP. The rights for the project were picked up last fall.

The story goes in-depth about the fentanyl epidemic which is currently devastating the suburban communities of New England. The 8,000-word article appeared last October in Men’s Journal delves into a local DEA bureau chief’s relentless pursuit to fight the war on drugs.

“When you look at the numbers, it’s an epidemic of unprecedented proportion,” Tollin told Deadline. “And we have a chance to raise awareness. The man’s whose life we are focusing the story on understands that awareness is one of his priorities, his job. He’s a superstar DEA agent who recognizes this and welcomes it. Stephen (Belber) has an incredible knack to make the geography a principle character in his writing. We are working hard to make sure it is grounded and authentic.”

Solotaroff is the investigative journalist behind “El Chapo: Inside the Hunt for Mexico’s Most Notorious Kingpin” which was published last year by Rolling Stone. “The Needle and the Damage Done” is the second article to come from his nine month ride with the DEA.

Belber is currently writing the film 67 Shots about the Kent State University shooting deaths of four unarmed students and the injury of nine others protesting the Vietnam War that Jay Roach is attached to direct for ShivHans. He is an award-winning playwright best known for his films Tape (which was directed by Richard Linklater) and Match. Belber was Emmy nominated for his writing on The Laramie Project about the life of Matthew Shepard who was tortured and murdered because he was gay.

The screenwriter’s latest film, O.G., which starred Jeffrey Wright, premiered at Tribeca this year (Wright won the award for Best Actor in a U.S. Feature Film).

Belber is repped by ICM Partners, Kaplan/Perrone and law firm Stone, Genow, Smelkinson, Binder & Christopher.