“Lost: Heroin’s Killer Grip on Maine’s People,” the Portland Press Herald’s 10-part series on the state’s opioid crisis, received national recognition Tuesday during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Los Angeles-based journalist and author Sam Quinones, who wrote a book on the nation’s opioid crisis, told U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that he had read the series.

“Great story. I read it,” he told Collins, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Tell them I tip my hat.”

His book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction. Quinones is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

His remarks about the newspaper’s series came during a hearing by the health committee Tuesday on the opioid crisis. Committee members met to explore how the epidemic spread and how the United States should deal with the crisis.

Collins discussed how rural communities seem particularly susceptible to the opioid crisis due to high unemployment and isolation. She also mentioned a story in the “Lost” series that examined the impact addiction was having on Maine’s lobster industry.

Collins noted that Quinones’ book details how communities in Ohio that were devastated by mill closures were destroyed by the opioid epidemic. “You have said heroin is what you get when you destroy dreamland. You have said that isolation is heroin’s natural habitat.”

But in response to a question from Collins, Quinones said he doesn’t believe that drug dealers target communities that are economically devastated.

“I don’t think drug dealers are deep sociologists. I think they are following the money,” Quinones told Collins. “The opioid crisis began in areas that are economically devastated because pain treatment and resorting to doctors was part of how you navigate economic disaster. … As time went on, the pills became something to resort to for economic sustenance. You can get pills, you can get high on them, but you could also sell them and people figured that out.”


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