NB Library Witte Lecture: Journalist Sam Quinones Analyzes A Hidden Nightmare

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Journalist Sam Quinones

By Cole Cronk | Special to the NB Indy

Although we’re all aware of the ongoing pandemic, there is an epidemic that has been going on beneath America’s nose for a long, long time. Sam Quinones is one of the leaders in exposing this secret issue that is only getting worse.

The opioid crisis has a long and complicated history, which Quinones documented in detail during his Witte Lecture online presentation on Friday, March 12.

Quinones has dedicated much of his investigative journalist career uncovering the details. In his 2015 book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” Quinones writes about many of the factors that pushed us to this point.

From Mexico and Columbia bringing stronger heroin in the 1960s to the pharmaceutical push for mainstream opioid use in the 1980s, there is a deep timeline that Quinones analyzes in a way that connects the dots to reveal how so many Americans and their families have been devastated by these drugs in such a short amount of time.

The most frustrating detail that Quinones shared was a medical record created in the 1970s that detailed how very few people became addicted to opiates in a hospital environment. This makes a lot of sense, as it is a very controlled environment where a doctor is constantly checking in with patients.

However, a decade after this document was created, it was used as proof in a study to push the sale of Vicodin, oxycodone, and more drugs that are easily addictive when sold to patients for at-home use.

This allowed opiate pills to gain momentum, especially because of a new generation of salespeople in the 1980s who were more concerned with pushing the pills on doctors over consulting with them and understanding what is safe for their patients.

A marketing tactic used on these doctors was telling them these pills would help them get patients suffering from chronic pain out of their office. These patients often have frequent visits with their doctors and often leave unsatisfied.

However, Quinones made sure to mention that not all of the doctors were bad guys trying to save time and make a quick buck. Many of these doctors were glad that opiate pills helped patients and were finally able to prescribe something that put a smile on patient’s faces.

Quinones’ next book, “The Least of Us,” is a continuation in his opiate crisis saga. The book’s title and its content is based on the idea that we, as a society, are only as strong as the weakest of us.

Quinones believes a huge reason the opiate crisis has accelerated so quickly is because our communities aren’t as strong as they used to be. People spend more time on their phones than talking to one another, there are less neighborhood barbeques, and there is still a stigma around discussing topics like drug addiction and related issues such as mental health.

Quinones ended his lecture by stating that the only way we can get through addiction is standing together. Whether its drugs, gambling, pornography—the list goes on.

There are plenty of things that can hurt us, but together, we can begin to heal and build a better future that makes it far more difficult for future generations to be harmed.

The final Witte Lecture is on April 16, when author and artist Shahzia Sikander will talk about “Beauty, Power, and Extraordinary Realities.”

Pioneering Pakistani American artist Shahzia Sikander is one of the most influential artists working today. She is celebrated for her figurative painting, sculptures and installations inspired by traditional Persian miniatures. Sikander will discuss her latest artwork, exhibitions, and forthcoming book “Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities” (2021, Hirmer Publishers). Her work has been exhibited around the world including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Sydney; Irish Modern Museum of Art, Dublin; and the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.

Sikander will be in conversation with Meg Linton, Chief Executive Officer, Newport Beach Public Library Foundation.

For tickets and more information, visit https://nbplf.foundation/programs/witte-lectures.


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