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Fighting addiction: police agencies, educators discuss problem

Panelists encourage schools to use 'Chasing the Dragon' video

by BOB GAETJENS | REPORTER Published: September 7, 2016 1:00 AM
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Aurora -- Some get hooked after popping a few pills at a party; others after a course of prescription pain medication following surgery; and others after trying to medicate their way out of depression with leftover pills.

However people get hooked on opioids, one thing is clear to Aurora Police Chief Brian Byard: very few successfully get off them once addicted.

"The recovery rate, in my opinion, is less than 1 percent," he said during a panel discussion aimed at working on a solution to the rising epidemic of opioid addiction, which usually starts with other gateway drugs such as marijuana, percocet or prescription pain killers.

Panelists during the event at Aurora High were seeking feedback about a video titled "Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict," which includes some adult language and follows several addicts through their experience with heroin, marijuana, pills, fentanyl and the downward spiral which inevitably follows.

The video is produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Agency.

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Aurora Law Director Dean DiPiero, one of the attendees, said the video has value for students.

"I would encourage our school district and others to use it in the appropriate way; it is a little raw," he said.

One of the recovering addicts uses profanity in the video, which panelist Timothy Plancon, the special agent in charge of Detroit's DEA field office, said "maybe is a little too much at times" but is happy with the video.

"I'm very proud of the effort. I think it's a great collaborative effort," he added. "The kids are hearing this."

Panelist Carole Rendon, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said schools and law enforcement need to work together to beat heroin and other opioids.

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"We're here today because we're asking, literally begging, for your help," she told the audience of educators and law enforcement personnel. But it also will take parental, community and legislative involvement to help break the cycle of addition, she added.

PANELIST Stephen Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland FBI office, said the epidemic is "in its infancy. With this more than any of the other drug problems we've seen as a country, the education side needs to have more of a prominent role than before."

Rendon said the medical establishment's pain treatment practices are contributing to the problem.

"For wisdom teeth or an outpatient thing, you come home and 30, 40, 60 doses of percocet," she said, calling them "little ticking time bomb for your children."

She said the hospitals are graded on their treatment of pain, so they make sure patients are comfortable, even if it means prescribing opioids to beat the pain. "I don't know about you all, but when I had my wisdom teeth out, they gave me Tylenol and told me to ice it," she said. "This notion that we have to treat pain is really a problem in the medical community; it's a cultural shift."

Comments from addicts and their family members in "Chasing the Dragon" include:

/ "Being addicted to opiates is like chasing a dragon. You're constantly seeking that first high, but what's going to happen when you catch it?"

/ "She was only 17 years old, and the only way I knew about it was because she was arrested."

/ "The spiral down is so fast. It doesn't take much. I'm starting over again with a huge weight on my shoulders, all for a pill."

/ "Seventeen steps up and I had no idea. I spend my Sundays looking at a gray headstone in a patch of grass."

/ "I wasn't using it to get high. I was using it to stay well. I missed a couple years of my life because of this. It's just a fog, just a blank fog."

/ "It's all the same [expletive]. One is prescribed to you and one you get on the street."

/ "You don't think about anything. You don't think about anybody you're hurting, and you don't think about being on the [expletive] news."

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ex. 4188

Twitter: @bobgaetjens_rpc


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