The Mystery Writers Association nominated it for an Edgar Allan Poe Award in the “Best Fact Crime Book” category.
Foreword Reviews named it the INDIEFAB Book of the Year in True Crime.
The New York Post named it one of their “Favorite Books of 2015.”
Suspense Magazine named it one of the “Best True Crime Books of 2015.”
Publishers Weekly named it an “Big Indie Book of Fall 2015.”
The king of the Florida pill mills was American Pain, a mega-clinic expressly created to serve addicts posing as patients. From a fortress-like former bank building, American Pain’s five doctors distributed massive quantities of oxycodone to hundreds of customers a day, mostly traffickers and addicts who came by the vanload. Inked muscle-heads ran the clinic’s security. Former strippers operated the pharmacy, counting out pills and stashing cash in garbage bags. Under their lab coats, the doctors carried guns—and it was all legal… sort of.
American Pain was the brainchild of Chris George, a 27-year-old convicted drug felon. The son of a South Florida home builder, Chris George grew up in ultra-rich Wellington, where Bill Gates, Springsteen, and Madonna kept houses. Thick-necked from weightlifting, he and his twin brother hung out with mobsters, invested in strip clubs, brawled with cops, and grinned for their mug shots. After the housing market stalled, a local doctor clued the brothers into the burgeoning underground market for lightly regulated prescription painkillers. In Florida, pain clinics could dispense the meds, and no one tracked the patients. Seizing the opportunity, Chris George teamed up with the doctor, and word got out. Just two years later Chris had raked in $40 million, and 90 percent of the pills his doctors prescribed flowed north to feed the rest of the country’s insatiable narcotics addiction. Meanwhile, hundreds more pain clinics in the mold of American Pain had popped up in the Sunshine State, creating a gigantic new drug industry.
American Pain chronicles the rise and fall of this game-changing pill mill, and how it helped tip the nation into its current opioid crisis, the deadliest drug epidemic in American history. The narrative swings back and forth between Florida and Kentucky, and is populated by a gaudy and diverse cast of characters. This includes the incongruous band of wealthy bad boys, thugs and esteemed physicians who built American Pain, as well as penniless Kentucky clans who transformed themselves into painkiller trafficking rings. It includes addicts whose lives were devastated by American Pain’s drugs, and the federal agents and grieving mothers who labored for years to bring the clinic’s crew to justice.
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REVIEWS and STORIES:
Foreword Reviews says American Pain is “masterful” and a “cautionary tale of the finest sort.”
Rehab Reviews says American Pain is a “gripping,” “sordid,” “hell of a story,” that portrays “the capitalistic heart of the nation’s drug culture. It’s this decade’s Studio 54, but far more lethal and with a less exuberant sound track.”
John’s Daily Beast story about the DEA role in the painkiller epidemic:
USA Today says: “In American Pain, author John Temple, a journalism professor at West Virginia University, has written a tale of sun-baked greed that could have sprung from the keyboards of Florida novelists Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey. He shows how the brothers Chris and Jeff George, along with their friend and enforcer Derik Nolan, made millions while pushing painkillers such as OxyContin to addicts from multiple states, especially those in Appalachia.”
New York Post features American Pain.
Library Journal says: “Temple has written a propulsive prequel of sorts to Sam Quinones’s Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, which takes a macro look at how Mexican heroin has supplanted prescription painkillers as the opiate of choice. This title relates a hugely profitable Florida pain clinic that started in 2008 and collapsed in 2010 after a lengthy undercover federal investigation. It benefits greatly from the author’s interviews with the principals, Derik Nolan and Chris George, who had no medical background but saw a better opportunity than construction work or selling steroids. Using trial testimony, media reports, and interviews with many of the players, Temple reconstructed in a chronological fashion the day-to-day operations of the clinic. As a former news reporter, the author does an exquisite job of weaving a simple narrative of greed and addiction into a cautionary tale. Readers should start with this book, then read Dreamland to get the rest of the story. VERDICT Highly recommended for general and true crime audiences. [Film rights have been optioned by Warner Bros.—Ed.]—Harry Charles, St. Louis”
Publishers Weekly says: “This exhilarating blow-by-blow account details how brothers Chris and Jeff George and their sidekick, Derik Nolan, steroids-fueled collaborators with no prior medical experience, exploited Florida’s lax prescription drug laws to operate the largest pain clinic in the United States, from 2008 until a raid brought it all crashing down in 2010. Money poured in so fast that bills were stuffed in garbage cans behind cashier windows. A corrupt doctor taught the brothers how to sell massive quantities of the legally controlled (and highly addictive) painkiller oxycodone under the guise of a medical clinic. As long as a physician prescribed the drug and told so-called patients to adhere to the recommended dosage, everything was considered on the up and up. Eventually, the George brothers ran rival clinics, and Chris George’s American Pain became the premier facility of its kind on the East Coast, luring junkies from as far away as Kentucky and Ohio, where oxycodone control laws are tougher. Journalism professor Temple (The Last Lawyer) dissects the Georges’ criminal operation and documents the rise and fall of American Pain with precision and authority in this highly readable true crime account. Agent: Jacqueline Flynn, Joelle Delbourgo Associates. (Sept.)”
Louisville Courier-Journal says: “American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic by John Temple (Lyons Press) reads like amazing fiction, but unfortunately for many Kentucky residents, it’s all true. It’s the story of how the oxycodone pill mill between Florida and Kentucky was established in 2008 and thrived until 2010, cutting a swath of addiction, greed, violence and death. Temple, a journalism professor at West Virginia University, worked from court records, news reports and personal interviews to craft an intriguing narrative. Apparently the story will be coming to the big screen, too. The book has been optioned by Warner Brothers.”
Melisa Wallack, Oscar-nominated co-writer of Dallas Buyers Club, says: “John Temple’s American Pain takes you on a hysterically funny, yet equally tragic, tour of Florida’s pill mill industry as the painkiller epidemic was reaching a fever pitch. He adeptly navigates the personal, political, and historical impacts of oxycodone, illustrating how the prescription opioid broke through all socioeconomic barriers to become the drug of choice for the super-rich and the super-poor. American Pain is a must-read for anyone trying to understand this government-sanctioned drug and the destructive power of Big Pharma.”
James Higdon, national bestselling author of The Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History, says: “American Pain made me angrier with every page. Why? Because John Temple has so adeptly reported this story of how a handful of criminals and shady doctors in Florida profited from the poverty and addiction of the Appalachian South. Right from the riveting opening chapter, American Pain is rife with tension, conflict, and good journalism. Temple sets up a collision course between the George twins and their buddy Derik against a lone FBI agent, who suddenly realizes she doesn’t exactly have the law on her side. Every chapter is worth it.?
Jason Ryan, author of Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs, says: “John Temple’s American Pain is as addicting a read as the little pills he writes about. Temple details the brazen operations of some of America’s largest pill mills and how they thrived in plain sight for years before the government took action. Forget back-alley deals, smuggled contraband and elusive kingpins, today’s war on drugs pits the government against much more formidable foes: pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and ambitious businessmen eager to facilitate prescriptions for patients’ pain, whether real or imagined.”