The opioid crisis has been through many phases, each seemingly worse than the one before it. With the introduction of synthetic opioids, overdoses accounted for more than 100,000 deaths, surpassing car wrecks for accidental fatalities, in 2020. Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland and The Least of Us, has spent years chronicling the opioid epidemic from pain pills to heroin to fentanyl and methamphetamine. However, he has hope for the future.
On August 17, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs will host a community discussion of The Least of Us at noon at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street. Quinones will join the discussion and answer questions via Zoom. The public is encouraged to read the book and attend the discussion. Multiple copies of both books are available at the Knox County Public Library.
“The reality of this widespread epidemic is grim,” Jacobs said. “But there is a lot of work and innovation being done to turn it around. Sam Quinones does a great job of identifying some underlying causes and highlighting solutions in different communities.”
In Knox County, coordinated efforts to combat the opioid crises are gaining ground. Recent efforts include Naloxone training and distribution, development of All4Knox action teams; expansion of peer support; hospital coordination; establishing The Gateway, Recovery Community Center; additional behavioral health resources; and expansion of treatment providers.
Sam Quinones is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, a reporter for 35 years, and author of four acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction. He is a veteran reporter on immigration, gangs, drug trafficking and the border. He is formerly a reporter with the L.A. Times, where he worked for 10 years. Before that, he made a living as a freelance writer residing in Mexico for a decade.
His latest book, released in November 2021, is The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth. He chronicles the emergence of a drug-trafficking world producing massive supplies of dope cheaper and deadlier than ever, marketing to the population of addicts created by the nation’s opioid epidemic, as the backdrop to tales of Americans’ quiet attempts to recover community through simple acts of helping the vulnerable. In January it was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) award for Best Nonfiction Book of 2021.
Dreamland won a National Book Critics Circle award for the Best Nonfiction Book of 2015. It was also selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by numerous publications as well as being selected one the Best 10 True-Crime Books of all time based on lists, surveys and ratings of more than 90 million Goodread.com readers in 2019.
For Dreamland, Quinones testified before the US Senate’s Health Committee, numerous professional conferences of judges, doctors, librarians, hospital administrators and at more than two-dozen town hall meetings in small towns across the country. A Young Adult version of Dreamland, for grades 7-9, was released in July of 2019.
Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for the Knox County Public Library.