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‘Chasing the Dragon’: Heroin in America

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‘Chasing the Dragon’: Heroin in America

The FBI film ‘Chasing the Dragon’ is a heart -renching depiction of a dangerous journey from prescription drugs to heroin abuse that millions of Americans have already embarked on.  Among other things, the title refers to a slang term that originated in Hong Kong and describes the constant pursuit to replicate the initial drug induced high.  It is also the way one drug user being interviewed for the film defines his addiction and the uncontrollable cravings that drive this insidious epidemic.

‘Chasing the Dragon’ is a documentary that FBI Director James Comey spearheaded. It is his hope that the content of this film will avert the prescription drug crisis that continues to destroy thousands of lives in America every year.  Unlike the stereotypical drug programs of the past that featured rundown buildings with poor residents, this documentary addresses the impact of prescription drugs and heroin addiction on the lives of people living in suburban American communities. Whether through legitimate medical use or illicit non-medical recreational use, the abuse of prescription pills like Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin is the common factor in every addiction story portrayed.

Changing Prescription Opioids for Heroin

In testimonial fashion, overdose survivors relive their experience. The transition from dependence on prescription drugs to heroin has become a natural progression for adults, as well as teenagers. An obvious surge in heroin abuse and overdose deaths became evident following policy changes that affected the way pharmaceutical companies, physicians and pain clinics dispensed prescription painkillers. These changes forced many prescription drug addicts to find an alternate drug to feed their addiction.  As a cheaper more readily available substance, heroin became the popular choice.  Based on data from the federal government, the number of new heroin users has doubled.

Overdose Rates

According to data from the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), at least 46,000 people die annually in America because of drug abuse. According to this report, this exceeds the number of deaths that occur from car accidents and gun violence combined. Of the 46,000, according to federal data cited in the film, at least 50% of those deaths are caused by prescription drug abuse. In 2014, overdose fatalities from heroin alone reached a staggering 10,000.  The DEA and FBI are concerned that the mortality rate will increase in 2016.

Impact on Teenagers

Also, what was once predominantly an adult and young adult drug problem, has turned into a deadly epidemic among teenagers all across the Nation.  This worrisome trend, according to FBI officials, often begins for teens with the use of pills taken from their medicine cabinet at home.  Studies show, in 2015, at least 80.5% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17, used heroin once or twice a week. Many are already experiencing heroin addiction and the accompanying health and drug overdose problems associated with that disease. To help address this issue, the video was specifically produced with teenagers in mind. According to Comey, the most tragic consequences of prescription and heroin addiction occur for those who begin drug use in their early years.  As such, filmmakers hope teenagers will be able to personally relate and connect to those who began using drugs as students and young adults.

How the Film aims to help the Crisis

For many people, especially those that have lost loved ones or have experience drug addiction themselves, this documentary may be painful to watch.  However, the intent of the film is to help save lives.  As such, the FBI and DEA have plans to distribute 10,000 copies to all of their field offices nationwide for educational use in classrooms.

In ‘Chasing the Dragon’, according to acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, audiences will get to see the dangerous and destructive path traveled by opioid abusers. It is designed to be a wake-up call to the dangers of prescription pills and heroin use in particular and substance abuse in general.

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