“American Pain” Author Speaks to PSC Journalism Class

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By Aaron Smith, Staff Writer

How did two young Floridian men manage to open up a legal clinic that raked in over $200,000 a day selling oxycodone to addicts?

That’s what West Virginian author John Temple discussed during his comprehensive talk with Journalism 101 students at Potomac State College.

Temple’s book, “American Pain,” provides an in-depth look at the now defunct Florida pill-mill clinic and its owners who profited enormously from the ability to prescribe oxycodone to hundreds of people a day.

The pain clinic Temple wrote about in “American Pain” took advantage of lax prescription regulations and quickly garnered a reputation across the east coast for its ease in getting high doses of oxycodone. Temple’s research revealed that 46% of the patients in the Florida clinic were from Kentucky; other patients came from states such as West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Ohio.

Temple’s exploration for “American Pain” led him around the country, and he shared stories of the travels he took to obtain his research. Temple visited each location that the Florida pill mill occupied, noting that as the business grew, so did its facilities.

The demand for oxycodone was so high that cash registers could not hold the amount of money the business would take in each day — trash bins were stored under the counter and would be switched out with another to be counted once full.

Temple shared a rumor he encountered during his investigations that at one point, the brothers who ran the business burned $1 bills so as to avoid having to count them.

While Temple couldn’t verify the authenticity of every rumor he was told, he did find an unlikely confidant that helped in the telling of the pain clinic’s story.

The clinic employed a “bouncer” named Derik to deal with unruly patients, and Temple said he found Derik to be the “most honest” of the people he spoke to about the book.

While others involved in the clinic often angled their responses, Derik was open and sincere. Temple shared the lengths he went to for his incredibly in-depth research, revealing he spoke to Derik everyday for seven months during Derik’s daily 15-minute phone calls from prison.

Temple did encounter many people who weren’t as forthcoming as Derik, but he told students that most people love to have their story told.

“It’s a normal human impulse,” Temple said. He remarked that as he and Derik talked over the seven months, Derik opened up more and began to find that talking about what he had been through helped him make sense of it.

As an Associate Professor at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media, Temple had an abundance of wisdom beyond just his research process to share with the Journalism 101 students at PSC.

Temple spoke about the publishing process and what goes into a book’s cover design, sharing an endearing mock-up artwork one of his young sons had drawn and comparing it to the book’s final artwork.

After his speech, Temple met with students and answered their questions, making a lasting impression on the class.

“I enjoyed hearing the process of how he did his research because he used so many different sources. I hope to use some of the advice he gave on interview and structuring stories in my future writings,” said student Molly Browning.

Fellow student Ali Barrett agreed, saying the work of Temple and his fellow authors and journalists takes ‘true dedication.’

The PSC Mary F. Shipper Library has copies of the book.  It can also be purchased in bookstores and online.

To keep up with John Temple visit his website, JohnTempleBooks.com and like him on Facebook, @JohnTempleBooks.