LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – On Tuesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency screened a documentary about the opioid epidemic aimed at curbing teen drug use.
From 2000 to 2015, more than a half a million citizen died from drug overdoses; a majority of those deaths involved an opioid. This averages to nearly 91 Americans every day.
Heroin, the cheapest opioid, has a growing presence in public schools and among suburban teens. Law enforcement agencies at all levels are fighting hard to decrease possible deaths in Arkansas, and the FBI and the DEA created a documentary called Chasing the Dragon. (“Chasing the Dragon” is a slang phrase meaning to inhale the vapor from drugs.)
“We are here today because of a father who made a request during one of our previous viewings of Chasing the Dragon. He had recently lost their son to drug addiction due to overdose. His concern was the fact that there were very few people who knew about this epidemic, and he was asking why it wasn't being shown at a big theatre,” explained Diane Upchurch at the film’s screening. Upchurch, the FBI Little Rock special agent in charge, was referring to the son of Scott Doerhoff. His clean-cut son died of an overdose after a short stint with the drug.
“When I saw the film, I was filled with nothing but regret because we had not seen it sooner,” said Doerhoff. “We were so much more educated after watching Chasing the Dragon.”
In Arkansas, methamphetamine is still the most pervasive drug, but in some communities, heroin is responsible for up to 20 deaths per 100,000 people.
"We are seeing a large increase in heroin in the Memphis area, New Orleans; all bordering states to Arkansas,” explained Colonel Bill Bryant, the director of the Arkansas State Police. “Unfortunately drug trafficking organizations use our interstates to transport this heroin, so we intersect it to keep it off the streets, so it doesn't get to our young people.”
Through the partnership of about a half dozen state and federal agencies, around 40 high school students watched the film at the Rave Theatre in Little Rock Tuesday.
“I worked at a daycare, taking care of other people's kids. I drove the daycare bus. I had to take their children to school. But before I could drive their kids to school, I was in the bathroom of the daycare, crushing up pills, snorting them, so I could go about my day,” explained one of the recovering addicts featured in the film.
During the question and answer portion, after the film was shown, nearly half of all of the students inside said they have had some sort of personal experience with the opioid epidemic.
"It shows how easy it is to get dragged in and how gateway drugs can be a very big deal and ruin lives,” said Brayden Dicenza, a junior at Arkansas Christian Academy.
"You start on marijuana and you end up on something you'd never believe you'd do,” echoed junior Abigail Prickett.
The FBI and DEA are hoping that through a partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education, they can show this film to all central Arkansas students.
You can find the film online here.