Chasing the Dragon: A Prosecutor’s Perspective

Assistant United States Attorney Gene Rossi discusses the problem of opioid addiction, which is portrayed in the film "Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict." The documentary was released by the FBI and DEA in an effort to combat the growing epidemic of prescription drug and heroin abuse. The film’s goal is to educate students and young adults about the dangers of addiction.

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Gene Rossi (Assistant United States Attorney, Eastern District of Virginia): I’ve been working on these cases since 2002. It’s been my passion. It’s been my absolute passion. And even today I…. [It’s] still hard for me to handle cases where somebody dies from this little pain pill, or many that they take. And I could give you countless examples of people who have died from overdose of pain medication. A patient named Robert was addicted to Oxy, Oxycontin, and he called Oxy, for him, the devil. And it just consumed every part of his life. Every second, of every minute, of every hour of the day he thought about getting another pill to feed his addiction.

I have three children. And I have worked on cases with kids, teenagers, young adults, just like my three kids. Alright, they had a stable home, went to pretty good schools, but at some point in their life they succumbed to temptation. And for whatever reason, when someone offered ‘em this little pill, which is really a Tic Tac, they succumbed and took that. They then took a couple more, and a couple more, and they became addicted. The emotional toll that is inflicted on the family, and loved ones, and close relatives of people who abuse these pills, cannot be overstated. Spiritually, emotionally, and morally it affects them. Not just in their heart and emotionally, but financially, because here’s what often happens. The parents or the close family of the ones who are addicted, they will spend inordinate amounts of money to put the person who’s addicted in drug rehab. That’s not cheap. That is not cheap. And I don’t want to mention any individual’s name, but I know of one family that spent 10, 20, 30 thousand dollars. And they didn’t make a lot of money. They weren’t rich. To put that loved one in drug rehab.

If you’re at home alone and your mother is receiving, or your father, or your family member is receiving a legitimate bottle of pain pills, and you go to that cabinet and you take pills out of that bottle, and then you sell and distribute those pills to your friends at a party, you have broken the law, and you can be prosecuted. That is drug trafficking under the federal case law and the statute. So when you come to that fork in the road and you have to make that choice, please, please think twice.

Ignore that big myth, it can harm you, it can harm your family, it can harm society. It’s just not a pill; it has a lot of different meanings and consequences. So to the young adults and teenagers, all I can say is, think about that the next time somebody puts that in your hand, or you pick it up and you’re not supposed to. Please think about that, because it does matter, it does matter.

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