Author to Share Insights About Opioid Epidemic in America's Heartland

Published 03.24.2017


Sam Quinones, a former Los Angeles-based journalist, will share the insights he gained while writing his book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” during a presentation at 7 p.m. April 3 at the Community Arts Center in downtown Williamsport. The presentation is free and open to the public.

A River Valley Transit shuttle will run between Penn College and the Arts Center, departing the Bush Campus Center loop at 6:00, 6:15, 6:30 and 6:45 p.m. with return trips as needed.

Quinones will discuss the development and writing of his book, which traces the emergence and social impacts of the national crisis of opioid and heroin abuse. His stories center around the fall and rise of Portsmouth, Ohio, as the backdrop to weave together two riveting tales of capitalism run amok: the unfettered prescription of addictive pain medications during the 1990s and the influx of black tar heroin.

Sam Quinones“We are delighted to be hosting Sam Quinones. His book, “Dreamland,” unfolds in a masterful way the history of America’s opioid epidemic, and I’m excited to hear him speak on this important topic,” Lycoming College President Kent Trachte said. “I’m especially proud that Lycoming students from one of our intellectual affinity living communities have taken the lead in bringing this event forward.”

“Dreamland” was selected as one of the best books of 2015 by,, The Daily Beast, Buzzfeed, Seattle Times, Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Entertainment Weekly and Audible. Copies of “Dreamland” are available for $18 at The College Store at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Pennsylvania ranked sixth in drug-related death rates in 2015. Mirroring that statistic, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that Pennsylvania is one of 36 states where drug abuse has become the leading cause of injury death, surpassing those from motor vehicle accidents. These statistics make Quinones’ insights particularly relevant to the Williamsport communities.

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate by class, race or gender. Nor can it be said to be an urban problem as the Drug Enforcement Administration reported that 12 rural counties were among the top 20 with the highest rate of drug-related deaths in 2015,” said Sarah Holstein, assistant professor of psychology at Lycoming College. “Few families have been spared the effects of the epidemic as drug addiction, particularly to heroin and opioid painkillers, has affected neighbors, friends and loved ones.”

"Dreamland"Quinones, a veteran reporter on immigration, gangs, drug trafficking and the border, is the author of two other narrative nonfiction books on Mexican culture: “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.”

The speaker is sponsored by Lycoming College’s Clear Focus Affinity Community, which provides opportunities for students, faculty, staff and the community to learn about the responsible use and harmful effects of drugs, alcohol and other substances. Affinity Communities are residential campus communities in which students and faculty explore thematic academic interests beyond formal classroom boundaries.

Other sponsors include the president’s offices of Lycoming College and Penn College, UPMC Susquehanna, Project Bald Eagle and state Sen. Gene Yaw’s office.