The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Public Program: “Dreamland: America's Opiate Epidemic”

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Los Angeles-based freelance journalist and author Sam Quinones shares with the audience the history and challenges of opiate addictions. (Photo by Hung Nguyen)

17S Public Program_Quinones

Quinones signs a copy of his latest novel, Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic for a student. (Photo by Hung Nguyen)

17S Public Program_Quinones

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. The death rates have increased in 30 states and the drug overdose death rate has significantly increased from 12.3 per 100,000 population in 2010 to 16.3 in 2015. In 2015, there were 52,404 lethal drug overdoses and 33,091 (63.1%) of those deaths were due to opioids. Opioid addiction is truly driving the drug epidemic in the United States; 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdoes. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm655051e1.htm).

Opioid addiction has a detrimentally widespread reach, negatively affecting the health, social, and economic welfare of society. But how did our nation come to this point? What caused this epidemic?

On Thursday, April 6th, Los Angeles-based freelance journalist and author Sam Quinones spoke on the history and challenges of opiate addictions. Describing the chronicles of the national epidemic of opiate addiction, Quinones discussed how it began and why. This epidemic encompasses the addictive nature of opiates, ranging from prescriptive pain pills to heroin. Quinones’s lecture focused on the complex background and future of opiate addiction in America.

Quinones centered his lecture around his latest novel, Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic (Bloomsbury, 2015), for which he traveled across the United States. Dreamland is a narrative nonfiction that addresses coinciding stories of drug marketing in the 21st Century. The combination of a pharmaceutical corporation that labels its legal new opiate prescription painkiller as non-addictive with a group of immigrants that retail black-tar heroin and take that system nationwide has led to the United States’ deadliest drug epidemic in modern times. Dreamland was selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by Amazon.com, Slate.com, Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Entertainment Weekly, and in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Business by Nobel economics laureate, Princeton University professor Angus Deaton.

Quinones’ previous novels, True Tales From Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx and Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration, stemmed from his 10 years living and working as a freelance writer in Mexico (1994-2004). Quinones also worked as a reporter for the L.A. Times from 2004 to 2014, focusing on immigration, gangs, drug trafficking, and the border.

Quinones lecture titled “Dreamland: America's Opiate Epidemic and How We Got Where We Are” took place at Rockefeller 003 at 5:00 pm on Thursday, April 6th, 2017.

Submitted by Alexa Green ’19, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Public Programs

The views and opinions expressed and any materials presented during a public program are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.

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