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‘American Pain’ author speaks about drugs — and journalism

By Jessica Federkeil, Point Park News Service:

John Temple had one question on his mind that lead to the creation of his newest book “American Pain.”

“Why am I hearing more and more about the abuse of prescription drugs, and why are they affecting people I know?” Temple, a journalism professor at West Virginia University, asked.

john temple
John Temple, author of “American Pain,” is a journalism professor at West Virginia University. He spoke at Point Park University about his book and the growing drug epidemic. Photo by Jessica Federkeil, Point Park News Service.

Temple spoke to a crowd of approximately 40 people at Point Park University in early October. He shared what he’s learned about the use of prescription drugs, his professional knowledge and his book “American Pain.”

“Drug culture always fascinates me,” Iain Oldman, 26, journalism major at Point Park University, said. “I really enjoy reading about it, and studying the growth of drug culture and crime. I came to this event to hear another alternative story about that.”

Temple said he felt he needed a story to tell when it came to prescription drug abuse.

“You could write a book on just prescription drug abuse, but not many people are going to read it,” Temple said.

Temple would find the story that would bring the book “American Pain” to life in the American Pain Clinic.

“When I came across the story of the American Pain Clinic I knew that was the way to tell the story,” Temple said.

American Pain was a Florida clinic solely used to distribute the opioid oxycodone to hundreds of addicts every single day. The book tells the story of the rise and fall of American Pain.

Students saw the importance of the story in Temple’s book.

“You have an epidemic this large scale, and then you have a unique story you can put faces to,” Oldman said.

Photo by Jessica Federkeil.
Temple also provided journalistic advice about how to tell a successful story. Photo by Jessica Federkeil, Point Park News Service.

Temple also spoke about the epidemic of opioid drugs in American society, which was something students could connect with.

“I have a few friends that I know are addicted to opioids,” Oldman said. “So it is something that is being talked about more and more.”

Temple also offered journalistic advice in his presentation.

When working on a book, Temple said he will declare his intent to a source by mailing them a letter, and then pursue them with a phone call and so on.

Temple stressed the importance of being able to tell a story. He explained how he developed the skill through screenwriting.

“After I wrote my first book, a screenwriter contacted me, and said, ‘Let’s work together on a project,’” Temple said. “We wrote a few things and they never sold. But, it was amazing to me when I started reading screenwriting books. There were all these ideas I’d never heard before.”

According to Temple, all the writing in the world is pointless without the understanding of a story.

“You can write beautiful sentences, but if you can’t tell the story in an order that makes sense, you will never be able to pull the reader in,” Temple said.

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