WSU associate professor presents research on history of opioid epidemic

Latah County Historical Society hosts third of five presentations; series based on history class at WSU



WSU Associate Professor Ken Faunce is presenting at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre on the history of the opioid epidemic.


The Latah County Historical Society is hosting a series of presentations based on the Roots of Contemporary Issues class offered at WSU. 

Dulce Kersting-Lark, Latah County Historical Society executive director, said professors and faculty involved in the Roots of Contemporary Issues program created a book series to help teach the subject at other institutions.

There are five books in the series, and each author will be coming in to do a presentation, Kersting-Lark said. 

“Each book is about a different kind of contemporary issue that is being contextualized in the historical framework,” she said. 

Kersting-Lark said the series helps people understand how society got to where it is today and big issues that have been occurring for a long time. 

“They have really long histories connected to them that need to be understood if we ever hope to find solutions to our most persistent problems,” she said. “I really enjoy that aspect of it.”

The historical society hosted two presentations in the fall, and the next will be hosted on Jan. 18, Kersting-Lark said. 

WSU Associate Professor Ken Faunce will speak at the next presentation about the historical roots of the opioid epidemic and how it arrived at its current state.

Faunce said he has conducted secondary research on the topic and looked at books written about the history of opium.

While he studied the history of other drugs for his research, his presentation will focus on the history of opium and the roots of the epidemic, he said.

His inspiration for his research came from his interest in the history of drugs. Faunce said he has been focusing a lot of his work on the subject and designed a unit in the Roots of Contemporary Issues course on the globalization of drugs. 

Faunce said the takeaway from his presentation is that the opioid epidemic is not a simple problem and has multiple factors. 

“It’s not just about addiction,” he said. “Addiction to drugs is an important point, but there’s a lot of other things going on there. Different individuals and groups … all the choices made through the last couple hundred years have led us to where we are now.” 

Faunce is looking forward to his presentation because he enjoys helping people understand the history of drugs, and in this case, opium, he said. 

“There’s a lot of things that people have to understand in order to understand what’s going on today,” Faunce said.

Faunce’s presentation starts at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in downtown Moscow, Kersting-Lark said. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Community members have the option to attend via Zoom and can register for the event on the Latah County Historical Society website.