GREEN Sam Quinones, author of the best seller "Dreamland,” was interviewed last week on Green High School’s internal television station for its "Bulldog Beat" show.
Quinones recently visited the area to talk about the opiate addiction problem and his book deals with the rise of opiate addiction in the United States, as well as showing how big pharmaceutical companies and doctors helped fuel the crisis that now faces our country. As part of the book, Quinones details how the use of drugs from Mexico developed into a business, likening it to pizza delivery in terms of availability and service.
During his visit, Quinones spoke to several groups, including a Wednesday night round table forum at the Akron Public Library that drew more than 450 people. Julie McMahan, who serves on the Summit County Opiate Task Force subcommittee and as director of communications for Green Local Schools, helped arrange for Quinones to visit the high school for an interview in between speaking engagements.
"This was the only school Sam had a chance to visit due to his busy schedule,” McMahan said. “So we were very fortunate to have him appear on our TV show and be interviewed by one of our students, Denton Cohen. The entire production was filmed by the student camera crew, who did on outstanding job."
During taping, Mayor Gerard Neugebauer, superintendent Jeff Miller, four school board members and various administrators and community members were on hand. The interview lasted about an hour, but due to his busy schedule for the day, Quinones was unable to have a question-and-answer session afterwards.
At the start of the interview, Quinones gave a breakdown of his background before tackling the current state of opiate addiction in the U.S. and how it developed. Based on his work and research, Quinones blames it on the pharmaceutical companies pushing drugs like OxyContin and doctors over-prescribing pain killers.
According to Quinones, prescriptions for upwards of a month are given for pain relief that should be needed for a few days. This leads to addiction since the base drug contain opiates like heroin that are tremendously addictive. When the patient can no longer get prescription pain medication, he said, they often turn to heroin.
"The heroin we are getting in this country today comes from Mexico," Quinones said. "It is a well-run business that provides a service. No wall will stop it. We need to work with Mexico and be friendly with them to solve the problem. There is a need for more cooperation."
Still, the author added that he’s not promoting any one plan or solution and did not want to “impose my beliefs on you. I am just a story teller. I present the material and let people make their own decisions as to what to do."
During the interview, Quinones told Cohen that he believes a "common denominator of the problem is the fact that communities act in isolation and no longer interact with their neighbors. I tried to find parents to talk to who had lost a child but only a few were willing to talk about it. There are parents out there who are crying themselves to sleep at night holding a photo album of their dead child. And they aren't talking about it. We need to change this and rebuild our communities ties."
Neugebauer, Miller and Board of Education member Katie Stoynoff all said afterward that they were impressed both with Quinones and with how Cohen conducted the interview and believe it will be educational and informative for anyone who has a chance to see it. The hour ended on a humorous note, as Cohen had a orange and black Green Bulldogs shirt that he wanted to give to Quinones as a souvenir of his visit. When he saw the shirt Quinones asked, “Why does a school with the name of Green have school colors of orange and black?”
Cohen did explain the story of the school’s colors and Quinones accepted the gift as part of a busy day in which he, Cohen and all involved did their best to shine a light on the opiate addiction issues facing our country. Efforts by various organizations in Green and Summit County are trying to educate people to the problem as the death toll from overdoses continues to climb and Quinones is one of the voices in the bigger discussion nationwide.