FBI film, 'Chasing the Dragon' highlights widespread opioid addiction

Local efforts to reduce alarming rates of young people becoming addicted

By Ryan Loyd - Digital Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - Painkillers have become such a problem across the country that it's been deemed an epidemic.

To tackle the abuse problem, the FBI, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and local authorities l ike the Bexar County Sheriff's Office and the San Antonio Police Department, are teaming up to bring the problem under control.

In the film, "Chasing the Dragon," commissioned by the FBI, real people tell about their addiction. The FBI is hoping that the film will open the community's eyes about the issue and get more people involved in stopping young people from ever starting.

The effort is part of FBI director James Comey's mission to revamp efforts and focus on the crisis.

Rob Saale, assistant special agent in charge in San Antonio, said while the numbers are shocking, there are real people behind the statistics.

"The opioid epidemic is probably the most significant drug threat our country faces today," he said Tuesday at a press conference. He stood with local leaders to announce the screening of "Chasing the Dragon." It can also be viewed online.

The feds say deadly accidental overdoses, many times caused by opioid abuse, outnumbers the number of people killed in car accidents.

Michelli Ramon, who is the former wellness coordinator in the Alamo Heights ISD and now the director of Rise Recovery, said access to opioids is easy.

"The things we learned this year is that there was a person, an unknown person in our community who was selling her own prescriptions right at front door," she said. "That's how available it is. That's how easy it is to score prescription medication."

In the KSAT opioid series, "The Painkiller Problem," Esmeralda Perez got stuck deep in heroin addiction.

"If I could teach anybody anything out of this would be for them to really think about making that decision to go down that road. There's nothing good going to come from that," she said.

Local leaders say they are going after children in schools, at churches, and other areas where kids hang out. They say kids as young as 11 years old are trying heroin -- and it only takes one time for the addiction to start.'

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood said that the community can't rely on prosecuting its way out of the problem.

"We are really good in the justice system to deal with symptoms," he said. "Substance abuse is a symptom. Anger is a symptom. Violence is a symptom. Promiscuity is a symptom. Bullying is a symptom. It's all a symptom to something deeper."

"Chasing the Dragon" will be screened at the Region 20 Service Center on Monday. Registration to the film and lunch are free. It begins at 11 a.m.

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