FBI will launch national opiate addiction education campaign

The video “Chasing the Dragon” was produced by the FBI.
The video “Chasing the Dragon” was produced by the FBI.

Local and national law enforcement officials premiered a video Wednesday in Kansas City illustrating what they are calling an “epidemic” of opiate and prescription drug abuse.

About 10,000 copies of the video, “Chasing the Dragon,” will be distributed across the country. Kansas City area school districts and education officials will receive copies during an April launch event.

Although the campaign will highlight the opiate addiction issue in general, it specifically will address the growing risk to high school students.

During a meeting Wednesday at the Kansas City FBI field offices, local and national officials cited growing evidence of the problem, with users becoming addicted to prescription medication or — depending upon the illegal street-drug prices in their communities — going in search of heroin.

Several users seen in the video, both younger and older, describe their experiences with oxycodone, a narcotic synthesized from thebaine, taken from the Asian opium poppy plant.

Traditional methods of enforcement may not be effective with the epidemic, officials said.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” said Michael Kulstad, an FBI public affairs adviser. “No one is immune to this.”

Among approximately 46,000 drug overdoses counted nationwide in 2015, about half could be traced to heroin and prescription drug abuses, Kulstad said.

In Kansas City, police officials counted 33 heroin overdose deaths last year, compared to 25 in 2014, according to Sgt. Chris Cesena with the Kansas City Police Department’s drug enforcement unit.

The often-explicit video includes interviews with addicts describing how they began abusing prescription drugs, sometimes believing the legally prescribed medications to be safe.

They describe quickly becoming devoted to trying to maintain that initial high and how they stole from or deceived friends and family members as they attempted to finance their spiraling addictions.

Brian Burnes: 816-234-4120, @BPBthree