Chasing the Dragon: Film Background
FBI Agents Baker Doughty and Shane Dana discuss the background of the film Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict.
Baker Doughty, FBI Special Agent (Case Agent, Chasing the Dragon Project): This film was really created to give people a deeper understanding and knowledge of that road that opiate addiction leads them down. We needed to have a different strategy. We can keep arresting people, we can attack the supply of the opiates, and we do a really good job with that. But the problem is the demand for the drug isn’t reduced at all, and so how do you attack that demand. Well, really it comes from an education of what lies in wait for somebody who experiments with that pill, or with that heroin.
Shane Dana, FBI Special Agent (Case Agent, Chasing the Dragon Project): Traditional law enforcement strategy targets supply. It goes after the illegal supply of oxycodone, the illegal supply of heroin. While we’re attacking the illicit supply that demand is gonna remain. Economic terms, they call it inelastic, an inelastic demand. That means, no matter what the price, they’re still gonna demand it. And we see that with the opiate epidemic. So where we’re effective in targeting the supply, we also need to be effective in reducing the number of people that are part of that demand. It’s startling when you are talking to someone that had their whole life ahead of them and everything was on track, and now you’re sitting in a jail cell with them and they are facing years of confinement, and you want to know where things went wrong. A lot of times it comes from a lack of awareness.
Doughty: There is very little education currently, especially for young adults and kids, about the harmful effects of opiates. And, you know, how bad it can effect affect their life. Well what we hope is that this film can be the start of that education for the school system. You know, use this film; it’s the best way to reach a large number of kids to show them, to educate them about this, this problem.
Dana: I think people can believe that drug addiction, opiate addiction, hits a subset of society, a particular subset of our culture. And that is just not accurate. It’s affecting everybody. People need to be aware, and be vigilant and cautious with the medications that they are prescribed. They need to be in constant communications with their doctors and be honest about their pain levels. You know, to the extent that, you know, we turn a blind eye and are not vigilant, you’re at risk. You know, my son had shoulder surgery, and as a result he was given a bottle of, you know, 40 Percocets. He needed two. I got 38 left in a bottle. No follow up calls. So what do you do with 38 extra Percocet tablets? Do you put ‘em in your medicine-chest? It’s a time-bomb waiting to happen if you have a house full of teen.
Doughty: We interview hundreds and hundreds of people who are opiate addicts, and the story is the same just about every time. It’s so similar that we often know what they’re going to say before they say it. They never wanted to end up here. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want to be a heroin addict. But at the end of the day they had no idea what that addiction was going to do to them, where it was going to lead them, and the effects it was going to have on their life. You know, when you watch this film you realize that opiate addicts are just people. At one point came from a normal family, could be your next door neighbor, could be your cousin, could be your brother or sister. They’re just like everyone else. Unfortunately that drug’s gotten hold of them. And I think it’s important for law enforcement to realize that when they’re dealing with these folks. That person that I talked to right after making the arrest was not the same person I was talking to who had been in jail for a brief period of time and no longer had access to the opiates. And so that’s an important thing for law enforcement to remember; is that most often times these people never wanted to end up here. It’s the drug that got ‘em there.
Dana: A very controversial issue, and it comes up over and over again, is this whole notion of a gateway drug. Is marijuana a gateway drug? Does marijuana lead to heroin use? If someone is abusing marijuana already and they’re presented with an opportunity to use another illicit substance like prescription medications, it’s not as big of a leap to use illicit oxycodone for the first time if they are already using marijuana. So is it a gateway per se? Well what I can tell you is [that] it gets you closer to making a poor decision. When someone experiments with an opiate, there is no experimenting it with it, it’s addiction. So it’s….you got one shot at it. You make that wrong choice and it’s no longer experimenting—you’re done.
Doughty: Hopefully by watching this video, by seeing just how bad it can get, the horrible effects these drugs will have on your body, hopefully that will be enough to shake that kid loose and make him realize, ‘I can’t make that decision. I can’t take that step, because I know where it will lead.’ It usually ends up in one of two ways, either you are going to end up in jail, or you are going to end up buried.
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