Author Recounts How Opioids Took Hold in America

Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic
Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic

In 2012, Sam Quinones, a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, almost couldn’t find a publisher for his book on the opioid epidemic. Overdoses were ravaging communities across America. Yet this addiction to opioids—from prescription painkillers to heroin—that has killed tens of thousands of Americans had long eluded the public’s radar.

At first, Quinones couldn’t find people to interview. No one wanted to talk.

“One guy told me that all across this country there are thousands and thousands of families, parents going to bed every night crying themselves to sleep, their arms around a photo album,” said Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, who spoke at a recent NIDA event in Wilson Hall. “The worst fear they have is people finding out why their loved ones really died. There was a silence.”

Quinones, whose presentation took the form of a conversation with Dr. Jack Stein, director of NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications, said people were fabricating relatives’ obituaries. They were ashamed and didn’t want exposure. “If you don’t have families on board, the media isn’t paying much attention...and politicians aren’t really in tune with it,” he said.

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SYMPTOM MANAGEMENT
Armstrong Surveys Rare Cancer Patients

NCI’s Dr. Terri Armstrong
NCI’s Dr. Terri Armstrong

Getting diagnosed with cancer is a frightening, uncertain experience. Already anxious about their prognosis, patients also must brace themselves for intensive and sometimes lengthy treatment and the potential for serious side effects from therapy and symptoms of the disease. For cancer patients, the overall care they receive is crucial.

“Sometimes it’s the journey that tells you more about that experience with cancer than the actual diagnosis does,” said Dr. Terri Armstrong, senior investigator in NCI’s Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB), at the Center for Cancer Research Grand Rounds held recently in Lipsett Amphitheater.

Armstrong’s research focuses on predicting and managing symptoms better, an interest she developed early in her career while observing patients experience significant symptoms from the cancer itself, compounded by those associated with treatment such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fevers.

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