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“Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict” makes FAN forum debut
4/27/2017 1:00:00 PM - Court

By Joseph V. Sowmick, Photojournalist


The face of addiction came into focus with a powerful message at the monthly Families Against Narcotics (FAN) forum, held at the Eagles nest Tribal Gym on April 20.


Driving the discussion was the critically acclaimed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documentary “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict.”  The production featured FBI Director James Comey and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Chuck Rosenberg having a discussion with current and recovering addicts.


“We are talking to you today because we are facing a crisis, a crisis that is killing far too many people.  That crisis is prescription drug and heroin abuse,” Comey said.  “We thought the best approach would be for you to hear the fact with no censors and no filters, just straight facts from people who have lived with the hard consequences of opioid abuse. (In the video) you are going to witness the real tragedy and learn what happens when drugs take hold of real people and don’t let go.”


Rosenberg shared some sobering facts in the video on how pervasive this crisis has become across the country.


“Each year more than 46,000 people die from a drug overdose.  That is more people dying from a drug overdose that from car accidents or gun violence and half of those deaths are related to opioid abuse” Rosenberg said.  “After watching this, we want people to talk to their parents, relatives, family friends and their brother and sisters.  If you know somebody who is using drugs or even thinking about using drugs, say something.”


The FAN forum provided some valuable information for individuals and concerned families with substance abuse issues. There are three places available that will accept unwanted prescription or non-prescription medications and substances, with no questions asked.  People can take those medications to Cardinal Pharmacy, Nimkee Center Tribal Police and Mt. Pleasant Police Department or they can take them to the May 10 drug drop off event.         


Mary Bentley serves on the FAN Board of Directors and informs McLaren Medical Center generously provided tacos for the forum.


“This movie presents the honest story of the experiences of those whose lives have been negatively impacted by opioids and other addictive substances. Parents, children, people of all ages, and from all economic and sociological walks of life are struggling with addictions each day. Most heroin addicts started with prescription opioids, either from physical pain relief, or to experiment with the high,” Bentley said. “As the addiction progresses, more and more of the substance is needed to chase the feeling experienced the first time. When no more prescriptions can be legally obtained, addicts resort to buying them off the street, which becomes too expensive.”


Bentley believes eventually addicts realize that the cost of one pill can cost the same as four heroin shots.


“Heroin can be cut with other even cheaper deadly additives like the drug carfentanil that is used as an elephant tranquilizer.  Carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, which is used medically to treat severe pain. Death comes very quickly. There are also incidences of meat tenderizers being added to stretch the heroin!”


Withdrawal from opiates, according to users in the video, is excruciating and can make you wish for death, rather than go through the withdrawal period. After a while, addicts are not using to “chase the dragon” (the effects of the first high), but to deal with the physical sickness of withdrawal.                                        


FBI Director Comey informs there is hope.


“With more education on the causes of addiction, and the dedicated treatment community, addicts and their families can get the support they need,” Comey said.


“Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict” can be found as a video on YouTube and its realism includes graphic images and inappropriate language.



(Miigwetch to FAN Board member Mary Bentley for contributing to this report)