Federal law enforcers hope a newly-released video documentary featuring real-life stories of opioid addiction will prove to be a powerful tool as Americans address the continuing public health and safety crisis.
The video, known as Chasing the Dragon, features testimonials from a half-dozen people who have battled drug addictions. The stories do not necessarily end happily, with all but one relapsing shortly after the completion of the project.
The language is occasionally strong and there are also some occasional graphic images. But those promoting the video Friday morning at the Kids Escaping Drugs campus in West Seneca hope that the unfiltered messaging leads to more frank talk in classrooms, in households and among peers.
"We'd love for schools for utilize this program," said Sharon Mentkowski, Community Outreach Specialist with the FBI field office in Buffalo. "There are actually some lesson plans that go along with it. It's a great opportunity and it's something that's free and easy to implement."
FBI Special Agent In Charge Adam Cohen and Kids Escaping Drugs board president Pat Greco co-hosted the preview. Sitting between them was Lauren, a Tonawanda native who was not in the video but is a young woman who overcame her own opioid addiction. She explained that it began around the age of 12 with prescription pills and then graduated to heroin.
"Even as I watched the snippets, I was thinking like some of the things they were saying just couldn't happen to me," she said. "Even in the midst of it all, I didn't think that my addiction would take me to the places that it did. It's just crazy when you start doing these drugs. Anything becomes a possibility."
Greco noted that every day, 44 people across the nation die from opiate overdoses. Last year, opioid overdoses were blamed for at 250 deaths in Erie County (some toxicology tests were still pending). Earlier this month, local officials warned the public of a dangerous batch of heroin that was blamed for nearly two dozen fatal overdoses in less than a two-week span.