MUNCIE — When journalist Sam Quinones pursued his first book on the opiate epidemic, he assumed it would be focused on the criminal aspect.
But as he told the audience during Meridian Health Services' community speaker series event Thursday, he found that addiction spreads far beyond crime. He spent several years documenting these components for his book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic.
What he learned during his research is that there's not just one reason for this epidemic, but several.
Quinones spoke of the 1980s, when there was a change in the heroin market, drugs were cheaper and more potent and fentanyl became popularized. He also discussed how parents have coddled their children, keeping them from being fully capable of understanding pain, and how lack of communication has resulted in widespread isolation.
Growing up in Southern California, the author's mother would ring a bell to gather him inside for dinner while he was playing outside with friends. Why? Because during that time, he joked, parents didn't know where their children were. But at least they knew they were outside socializing.
Quinones made that same trip to his hometown recently and didn't see the same picture.
"Why do we wonder that heroin is everywhere?" he asked the crowd. "Heroin, I think, is the final expression of values we've fostered in this country for at least the last 35 years. It's the final expression of isolation, of our preference for isolation at the expense of community."
Following Quinones' speech, Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler shared that sentiment in a panel discussion, moderated by Star Press executive editor Greg Fallon.
Mayor Tyler talked about growing up on the southeast side of Muncie. Among the 200 or so homes surrounding his family's, his parents knew nearly every other parent. He doesn't see this happening now.
"I'd almost challenge anybody in this room today to tell me who their neighbor is two blocks away," he said.
Mayor Tyler sat alongside Quinones, newly-appointed chief deputy prosecutor Zach Craig, Meridian's addiction services director Anthony Lathery, Dr. Scott Taylor, volunteer Rhea Graham and State Senator Jim Merritt. Here's what else the panel addressed.