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Nationally recognized journalist speaks to Drug Council

Sam Quinones talks opiate epidemic

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Throughout his journalism career, Sam Quinones covered various beats often revolving around drugs.

He shared his experiences and gave advice July 5 to the Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council.

Quinones often covered topics like drugs, gangs, politics and immigration both when he lived in Mexico from 1994-2004 and when he worked for the L.A. Times after he moved back to the states.

He said frequently people turn to drugs when they are out of shape due to pain or medical problems, which leads to addiction.

“I realized I have to be the change I want to see in the country,” Quinones said. “So I stopped drinking sodas. This says a lot about corporate power and the ability of pharmaceutical companies to market these as great. They get millions of doctors to change how they practice medicine.”

Holding yourself accountable is one way to combat this problem, Quinones said.

“Doctors across the country have been convinced that the only way to treat pain is to plaster it with pharmaceutical painkillers,” Quinones said. “This all plays a part in the story of who we become as a country.”

When he had surgery a few years ago, he was prescribed a large amount of pain killers. He said he was not educated on the dangers of the pills’ addictiveness, but he was able to stop taking them after two pills.

“They just told me to ‘take as needed,’” Quinones said. “We need to start asking questions about why we need 60 pills for routine surgery recovery that will last more than one or two days. That’s how you get to a black market of opioid pills.”

He also said the public defenders who work with drug dealers often don’t show remorse for helping the dealers.

“I was surprised at how little they cared,” Quinones said.

Sometimes when a poor community is able to profit from selling drugs, it starts a vicious cycle, he said.

“Heroin helps you build a house in nine months instead of nine years or 15 years,” Quinones said. “The houses are nicely built. I talked to one guy who knew someone who went to sell heroin in the United States and was the first to come home and have a house with an automated garage door.”

That house was like a recruiting poster for others to start selling heroin, he said.

“That overpowers normal traditions,” Quinones said. “Before this, everyone was poor and didn’t know there was another way. You couldn’t be a man of respect without an automated garage door. The only way to get that quickly in this town is by selling heroin.”


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