Dreamland author Sam Quinones talks with Kentucky doctors about opiate epidemic and their role

09/05/2017 02:40 PM

LOUISVILLE — Kentucky has been hit hard by the opiate epidemic, a scourge which has caused large upticks in the number of overdoses across the nation.

Journalist and author Sam Quinones knows about the opiate crisis well, he penned a book on the subject entitled Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. The book has been lauded by many, including Gov. Matt Bevin, R-Kentucky.

Recently Quinones was brought back to the commonwealth by the Kentucky Medical Association for their fall conference, where he spoke with doctors and others in the medical field in Louisville.

Quinones wanted to speak with medical practitioners about how the opiate scourge started.

“Doctors play a pivotal, essential role in all this,” he said. “There’s a lot to it that involves, I think — changes to American culture honestly, who we become as a country, who we become as a people and changes in medicine and provision of health care in the country.”

“I think a lot of this got started because of managed care and the real time crunch that doctors felt in every kind of clinic to deal with people.”

The author said that he thinks other pressures on doctors like patient evaluation scores, like Press Ganey — the nation’s leading provider of patient satisfaction surveys.

The surveys contain questions on patient wait times, pain management and communication skills, according to Forbes magazine. The problem with the surveys according to Quinones and others is that, in order to get a higher rating, and thus a higher salary, doctors over prescribe narcotics to satisfy patients who don’t want to feel pain.

“Press Ganey scores seem to me to be not terribly helpful,” Quinones said. “All they really reflect is one or two question. If you really want a patient evaluation, a patient ought to be four or five pages to get to the full story of why the answer was yes or no; to did your doctor treat your pain well.”

Quinones also addressed the culture in America towards health, as he put it “doctors were almost like car mechanics,” meaning that health was the primary concern of doctors and not patients.

As some doctors have over prescribed pain pills and government has cracked down on pill mills, many addicts have turned to the street and heroin for their drugs. That’s where the other piece to the opiate puzzle lies, Quinones says with Mexican cartels and how both the US and Mexican governments point the finger at the other.

“The problem really is we have viewed this is either our problem or Mexico’s problem,” he said.

“We would not have the kind of heroin problem we have today if it were not for Mexican traffickers sending up huge amounts of very potent and very cheap dope. But the truth is we created the demand for that, right. And our guns are fueling that very vicious medieval war that’s going on down south for the last dozen years.”

You can watch the full raw interview with Quinones in the video below.

Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics available exclusively on Spectrum News. Pure Politics is the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like his coverage of the backlog of DNA rape kits waiting to be tested in Kentucky. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Pure Politics airs weeknight at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Nick on Twitter @NStorm_Politics. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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