‘Chasing the dragon’

Published 9:22 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A new group focused on the health of people in Suffolk has chosen an important topic — opiate addiction — as its inaugural outreach into the community.

In cooperation with the Western Tidewater Community Services Board, the Suffolk Wellness Coalition will present a screening of “Chasing the Dragon,” followed by a panel discussion, from 10 a.m. to noon on Monday at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

The documentary film presents an unvarnished look at the personal cost of the epidemic of prescription opiate abuse in America and the way that epidemic has led to a resurgence in heroin abuse and related fatalities.


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The problem is widespread. It doesn’t respect cultural or class distinctions. It affects people of all races, all societal strata and all backgrounds. And it shatters the stereotypes long associated with addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, unintentional overdose deaths involving prescription pain relievers have quadrupled since 1999. Since 2002, fatal prescription overdoses have outnumbered those involving heroin and cocaine.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 44 people a day die from opiate overdoses around the nation.

“Chasing the Dragon” is a hard film to watch. The raw stories, told by recovering addicts and the families of those who have lost loved ones to overdoses are heartbreaking, and they are shockingly similar in the telling: Someone with everything to live for got high on opiates once, and so began a fast downward spiral. And even those who finally “beat” the addiction are never the same; they are always at risk of chasing the dragon on more — perhaps one last — time.

Make time on Monday to attend the event. Or if you cannot be there, find time to watch the video online. Statistics suggest that one in five high school seniors has misused prescription drugs at least once. Armed with the information you will learn in this film, as well as the resources that will be available at the event and during the panel discussion, you might be able to help someone you know avoid becoming a sad statistic of this epidemic.