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American Overdose: Reporting on The Opioid Tragedy


Hosted in partnership with Booksmart Tulsa and Magic City Books, PEN America presents a free evening with journalist Chris McGreal of The Guardian. His book, American Overdose, is a devastating portrait of the opioid epidemic, a uniquely American and catastrophically lethal tragedy born of Congressional neglect, amplified by corporate greed, and brutally exploited by illegal drug cartels. The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history; it results in 90 American deaths a day and has eviscerated communities across the country. It is a consequence of a healthcare system run as a business, one that prescribed drugs with unprecedented amounts of oxycodone to patients experiencing everything from toothaches to severe chronic pain. The practice created a culture of addiction in towns and cities from Florida to Maine and throughout Appalachia and the American West.

The conversation with a local reporter will explore the challenges that journalists face in finding and sharing the truth about this issue, the community impact of this kind of reporting, and the importance of news media attention to such an urgent issue. The discussion will also touch on the importance of ethical reporting, how each journalist approaches transparency and accountability in the work they do around this issue, and what reporters consider when they present stories of lived experience.

Chris McGreal is a senior writer at The Guardian and former journalist for BBC. He has published several articles on the opioid epidemic in America. He has worked in Johannesburg and Jerusalem, as well as Central America, and now lives with his family in Portland, OR.