WVU journalism professor publishes true-crime story, “American Pain”

Courtesy WVU Reed College of Media
John Temple details how twin brothers Chris and Jeffrey George ran pill mills that led to the formation of hundreds of pain clinics in his forthcoming book, ‘American Pain.’

A West Virginia University professor tells the story of a convicted Floridian felon and his twin brother who ran pill mills that started hundreds of pain clinics in his forthcoming book, “American Pain.”

John Temple, an associate professor at the WVU Reed College of Media, details how twin brothers Chris and Jeffery George made $40 million in two years through illegal pain clinics in his latest book, a true-crime story due out next month. Now serving 17 ½ and 15 ½ years in jail, respectively, the two opened up to Temple to tell their story of how they operated a seemingly legal pain clinic in broad daylight.

The brothers hired doctors and bought painkillers from wholesalers to distribute indiscriminately to almost any patient, or addict, who walked through their clinic doors, Temple explained. The George twins had no idea how successful their business would be.

“It took them by surprise,” Temple said. “When they started it, they didn’t believe it was going to be that big of a deal. They thought of it as another business.”

The twins operated four clinics: American Pain, Hallandale Pain, Executive Pain and East Coast Pain.

“They knew what they were doing but they thought it was legal a lot of the time because no one really shut them down,” Temple said. “They were operating out in the open.”

Following the likes of the original clinic, American Pain, hundreds of other clinics opened to create a new prescription drug industry.

Today, West Virginia has the highest overdose fatality rate, with 32 deaths per 100,000 people in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.

The majority of the prescription painkillers distributed at the clinics would make their way north of Florida to fuel the addicts in Appalachian states.

“Most of the drugs that were being prescribed and sold were to people from Appalachian states, sadly,” Temple said. “They flooded our state.”

Not a school year goes by during which a student doesn’t approach Temple to tell him how they or their family has been affected someway by the painkiller epidemic.

“It infuriates me. It’s terrible. It didn’t need to happen. It’s something I see a lot and hear about a lot,” Temple said. “Twenty years ago, we didn’t hear about it a lot — not nearly as much as you hear about it now.”

While Temple acknowledges he is no policy expert, he believes awareness might be a good step to solving the painkiller epidemic. He believes part of the problem is the amount of misinformation surrounding opioid drugs. Although oxycodone is a legal prescription drug, it’s almost identical in its chemical makeup to heroin.

“There are people who would never dream of using heroin who might consider getting high off oxycodone,” Temple said. “It’s not something to mess around with.”

Temple, who also authored the narrative nonfiction books ‘Deadhouse’ and ‘The Last Lawyer,’ said his third book is his most expansive yet, with more characters and research.

Warner Brothers bought the rights to “American Pain.” Temple said he read over the script and is excited about the possibility of his book turning into a movie.

“I always thought it would be a great movie,” Temple said. “It’s a very visual story, with the doctors and the drugs and the guns and people driving in big groups to buy the drugs and bring them back up here and sell them.”

“American Pain” will be released Sept. 1, but can be preordered on Amazon.com. Temple will launch “American Pain” with a discussion and book signing at the WVU College of Law Event Center on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m.

For more information on “American Pain,” visit johntemplebooks.com

Contact writer Laura Haight at laura.haight@dailymailwv.com, 304-348-4872 or Follow her on twitter at @laurahaight_.

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