The week of Sept. 19-23 marks National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week. In support of this, the Colorado State University–Pueblo Health Education and Prevention Program coordinated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring the Chasing the Dragon documentary to the Pueblo community.
Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner opened the Chasing the Dragon event on Sept. 21 by saying, “the best cure is prevention.” The Assistant United States Attorney Jamie Mendeson was also in attendance and described the opioid and heroin problem as an “insidious epidemic” that is plaguing the nation, not just Pueblo, Colorado.
The “Chasing the Dragon” documentary can be found online at fbi.gov/chasingthedragon and is a collaborative effort between the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Real life accounts of opiate addicts and family members of addicts are interviewed throughout the film.
All the individuals said the high is not worth everything that is lost, especially one’s freedom. Medical professionals, who were interviewed, said the chemical in the drugs affects everyone the same no matter race, age, sex or economic status.
Heroin is a dirty drug that could be cut with anything so users never truly know what they are getting. A frequent user or a first-time user could die because his or her batch is laced with fentanyl, which is fatal. The documentary showed how some users were left with permanent skin damage, which didn’t stop them from continuing to use the drugs.
Many of the people interviewed said marijuana was where all their drug problems started. One young man said, “I didn’t learn to enjoy life without drugs,” while another addict said, “I wish I could have said no.”
For all of the abusers, the drug took over their lives and it soon was no longer about the high but staying well. A woman serving time said you have to “respect the power of the pill.”
The film concluded by showing where each addict was after the initial interviews. Some individuals became advocates, some relapsed, some went to jail after already serving time, and some were in treatment after overdosing again.
John Partridge, diversion program manager for the DEA, said the opiate problem is the worst epidemic in U.S. history. He encouraged everyone at the event to start discussions with themselves, with family and with friends – not with old people like him.
He said people should feel free to talk openly because talking about it could save someone’s life. Partridge encouraged people who abuse drugs to seek help and get treatment saying it can be as easy as talking to a friend about it.
The documentary and Partridge expressed that people often abuse prescription drugs because they are readily available. Many don’t feel the need to dispose of left-over medication, which leaves them and others at risk to become a drug abuser. Partridge said the DEA sponsors a Take Back Day, where people can take expired or unused medication to a site to be disposed of properly. Individuals in Pueblo can take their prescriptions to the Pueblo Police Department on Oct. 22, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an opiate or other drug problem say something or call law enforcement. A mother of a 17-year-old addict put her daughter in jail to save her life. One medical professional interviewed in the movie said the best thing that can happen to an addict is be arrested and go to jail.
Edited by: Theresa Wolf