Chasing the Dragon

Raising Awareness of Opioid Addiction
FBI, DEA Release Documentary Aimed at Youth


Every day, the nation’s law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels—including the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—use investigative resources to target the supply side in the war against drugs.

But even with numerous law enforcement successes in this area, the demand for drugs continues. And one of the more worrisome trends is a growing epidemic of prescription opiate and heroin abuse, especially among young people.

Today, in an effort to help educate students and young adults about the dangers of opioid addiction, the FBI and DEA unveiled a documentary called Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., before an audience of educational leaders from the region. The 45-minute film, whose title refers to the never-ending pursuit of the original or ultimate high, features stark first-person accounts told by individuals who have abused opioids or whose children have abused opioids, with tragic consequences.

“This film may be difficult to watch,” explains FBI Director James Comey, “but we hope it educates our students and young adults about the tragic consequences that come with abusing these drugs and that it will cause people to think twice before becoming its next victim.”

And according to Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, “The numbers are appalling—tens of thousands of Americans will die this year from drug-related deaths, and more than half of these deaths are from heroin and prescription opioid overdoses. I hope this [documentary] will be a wakeup call for folks.”

The individuals featured in the film—a few of whom are highlighted below—chose to tell their stories to help stop others from going down the same destructive path.

  • Katrina, a former business executive and mother who became addicted to opiates after self-medicating with pain pills and alcohol and whose own daughter died of a drug overdose. “You can’t go back and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ or set a better example, or talk ‘em out of it,” she says. And of her own addiction, she explains, “The spiral down is so fast...and I lost everything. I lost my daughter first and foremost. So all the work I did, all those dreams I had, it’s like I’m starting over again with a huge weight on my shoulder...all for a pill.”
  • Matt, who began using marijuana at age 11 and became addicted to opiates at age 15. “In the beginning,” he explains, “I would always try to get pills because you know what you’re getting. Eventually, that just got too then you’d go for heroin because it’s cheaper.”
  • Trish, whose daughter Cierra—an honor roll student at her high school—died after a heroin overdose. “Cierra did not take life for granted until she started using,” says her mother. “It is much stronger than you, and it will win.” Noting the broader impact of addiction, Trish adds, “It affects everyone in your family for the rest of their life...we’re the ones stuck missing you.”

Chasing the Dragon also features interviews with medical and law enforcement professionals discussing a variety of issues, including how quickly addiction can set in, how the increasing costs of prescription opioids can lead to the use of heroin as a less expensive alternative, the horrors of withdrawal, the ties between addiction and crime, and the fact that, contrary to popular belief, opiate abuse is prevalent in all segments of society.

Opioid overdose epidemic worsens


The Center of Disease Control and Prevention

Overall drug overdose death rates have never been higher, and 6 out of 10 of these deaths involved opioids. Opioid overdose deaths, including deaths related to opioid pain relievers and heroin, increased significantly between 2013 and 2014, according to new data published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In 2014, there were 28,647 opioid overdose deaths, an increase of 14% compared to 2013 data. The increase is due in part to increases in heroin deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, especially illicitly-made fentanyl. Also, deaths related to natural and semi-synthetic opioids, which include the most commonly prescribed opioid pain relievers, oxycodone and hydrocodone, continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other opioid type and increased by 9 percent from 2013 to 2014, representing 813 more deaths in 2014 than 2013.

In addition, heroin-related death rates increased 26% from 2013-2014, totaling 10,574 deaths in 2014. Primarily in the Midwest, Northeast, and increasing in the South, heroin may be cut with illicit fentanyl—with or without the user’s knowledge—in order to increase its effect. Over eighty percent of fentanyl drug confiscations in 2014 were concentrated in 10 states in these regions. Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids such as illicitly-made fentanyl, increased by 80% from 2013–2014. Roughly 5,500 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2014.

Past misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers is the strongest risk factor for heroin initiation and use. Increased availability, reduced price, and high purity of heroin appear to be major factors in the recent increase in heroin use.

What Can Be Done

These new data highlight the increasing trend of opioid abuse, and the urgent need to prevent opioid addiction and overdose deaths. The findings indicate four ways to prevent overdose deaths:

  • Improve opioid prescribing to reduce exposure to opioids and stop addiction.
  • Expand access to evidence-based substance abuse treatment, such as Medication-Assisted Treatment, for people already addicted to opioids.
  • Expand access and use of naloxone—a safe antidote to reverse opioid overdose.
  • Improve detection of illicit opioid use by working with state and local public health agencies, medical examiners and coroners, and law enforcement.

Survey reveals new trends in teen drug and alcohol use

By Mary Brophy Marcus

CBS News

December 16, 2015, 11:03 AM

Updated Dec 16, 2015 2:52 PM EST


Alcohol and cigarette use are down among teens, but marijuana use has not declined, a new report shows. For the first time, researchers found that more high school seniors smoke marijuana than regular cigarettes on a daily basis.

The annual survey of 8th, 10th and 12th graders is out today from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). It shows substance abuse among high schoolers is stable or down in most categories.

Researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor have been running the survey since 1975, measuring use and monitoring teens' attitudes about drugs and alcohol.

This year's 2015 Monitoring the Future survey shows that teens overall are cutting back on use of cigarettes, alcohol (including binge drinking), prescription opioid pain relievers, and synthetic marijuana.

"These are some of the lowest numbers we have ever seen," NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow told CBS News. "Notable is cigarette smoking -- it is lower than we've ever seen it. Heroin is at the lowest it's ever been. For prescription opiates, it's the lowest we have ever seen. Overall this is very good news."

The researchers said one concerning area, though, is that marijuana use has not declined. Daily use remains flat at 6 percent -- for the first time, it exceeds tobacco cigarette use among 12th graders (at 5.5 percent).

The survey suggests teens see marijuana as less risky than in the past -- this year, 31.9 percent of 12th graders said regular use could be harmful compared to 36.1 percent last year.

But despite that impression, Volkow stressed that marijuana has potentially serious negative effects on teens' still-developing brains.

What might be influencing an attitude shift toward the drug? Changes in state laws regarding marijuana use, and media attention about the potential medicinal benefits of marijuana may be having an impact.

"People have an association that it has medical, therapeutic benefits," Volkow said. The messaging being sent is that marijuana can help with a wide variety of diseases and conditions, and it gives the impression that it's safe, but she said, "Among teens, several studies provide evidence showing marijuana's affects are deleterious."

The survey found prescription opioid use continues to drop, with 4.4 percent of high school seniors reporting non-medical use of Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen), down from a peak of 10.5 percent in 2003. Most teens who abuse prescription opioids said they get them from friends or family members. But one-third say they use their own prescriptions. Experts say the finding underscores the need for doctors to closely monitor teen prescription painkiller use.

On another positive note, the survey found heroin use is down. Numerous recent news reports have highlighted heroin overdoses among teens and the devastating effect the drug has had on families and communities, so survey results showing heroin use at an all-time low (0.3 percent for eighth graders, and 0.5 for 10th and 12th graders) were heartening.

Other highlights of the survey include:


  • Among high school seniors, almost a quarter reported using an illicit drug in the past month, with 7.6 percent reporting they used a drug other than marijuana.

  • Use of MDMA (known as Ecstasy or Molly), inhalants, and LSD are generally stable or down. In 2015, 3.6 percent of seniors reported past year use of MDMA, compared to 5 percent in 2014.

  • Use of synthetic marijuana drugs, like K2 or Spice, dropped significantly: 5.2 percent of 12th graders reported using them, down from 11.4 percent in 2011.

  • Non-medical use of the prescription drug Adderall, typically prescribed for ADHD, is still high at 7.5 percent among 12th graders.


  • Cigarette smoking rates have taken a nosedive. Cigarette use dropped from 6.7 percent last year to 5.5 percent among 12th graders this year. Among 10th graders, cigarette smoking has been cut by more than half over the past five years, from 6.6 percent in 2010 to just 3 percent today.

  • Use of other tobacco products remain high. Almost 1 in 5 students in 12th grade (19.8 percent) report hookah use and 15.9 percent smoke small cigars.

  • Attitudes toward smoking are changing for the better. More than 75 percent of high school seniors view smoking a pack or more a day as harmful, compared to 51.3 percent in 1975, first year of the survey.



  • Alcohol use overall continues to decrease. All three grades showed a decline in the proportion of students reporting any alcohol use in the past year, dropping from 43 percent to 41 percent.

  • Binge drinking -- downing five or more drinks in a row within the past two weeks -- is at 17.2 percent among seniors, down from 19.4 percent last year. Binge drinking peaked in 1998 at 31.5 percent.

  • Getting drunk is down among high school seniors. A little over 37 percent of 12th graders say they have been drunk in the past year, compared to 41.4 percent last year and 53.2 percent in 2001.

Overall, 44,892 students from 382 public and private schools participated in this year's survey.

Volkow credits the decrease in cigarette and alcohol use to strong prevention efforts, such as in-school and parent education, and increasing taxes on substances.

"Adolescents have less money than adults and are much more sensitive to differences in prices. With alcohol, there have been very aggressive campaigns in schools and to teach parents, no, it is not okay. Also, re-enforcement of not selling alcohol to teens so it's harder for them to get their hands on it," said Volkow.

While the numbers are going down in many categories, or at least remaining stable, drug and alcohol use are still too high in school students, said the experts.

"We are very encouraged by the continued decline in underage drinking illustrated in these data," said George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in a statement. "However, the percent of underage individuals drinking still remains unacceptably high."

National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli said there's still work to be done.

"Efforts to prevent drug use from ever starting are particularly important as we work to reduce the rising number of drug overdoses across the country," he said. "I encourage parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors to have a conversation with the young people in their lives about making the healthy decisions that will keep them on a path toward a successful future."

In an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes" last week, Botticelli emphasized the need to rethink America's "war on drugs." That approach "has been all wrong," he said. "We've learned addiction is a brain disease. This is not a moral failing ... The medical community has a key role to play in terms of doing a better job of identifying people in the early stages of their disease, in doing a better job at treating people who have this disorder."


© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

2015 National Drug Cotrol Strategy Released

Today the Administration released the 2015 National Drug Control Strategy. You can find a copy of it, and supporting information, at  and 2015 National Drug Control Strategy.

"We're partnering with communities to prevent drug use, reduce overdose deaths, help people get treatment.  And under the Affordable Care Act, more health plans have to cover substance abuse disorders.  The budget that I sent Congress would invest in things like state overdose prevention programs, preparing more first responders to save more lives, and expanding medication assisted treatment programs.  - President Obama, Charleston, West Virginia, October 21, 2015

The Obama Administration's first National Drug Control Strategy, published in 2010, charted a new course in efforts to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences in the United States. Science has shown that a substance use disorder is not a moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated. Informed by this basic understanding, the annual Strategies that followed have promoted a balance of evidence-based public health and safety initiatives. The 2015 Strategy focuses on seven core areas:  

  • Preventing drug use in our communities;
  • Seeking early intervention opportunities in health care;
  • Integrating treatment for substance use disorders into health care and supporting recovery;
  • Breaking the cycle of drug use, crime, and incarceration;
  • Disrupting domestic drug trafficking and production;
  • Strengthening international partnerships; and
  • Improving information systems to better address drug use and its consequences. 

The Strategy emphasizes the Administration's commitment to confronting the prescription drug misuse and heroin epidemic. In 2010, the President's first Strategy emphasized the need for action to address opioid use disorders and overdose, while ensuring that individuals with pain receive safe, effective treatment. The next year, the White House released its national Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan to outline goals for addressing prescription drug abuse and overdose. The President's Fiscal Year 2016 budget included $133 million in new investments aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic, including expanding state-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies, medication-assisted treatment programs, and access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

Beyond its function as a guide for shaping Federal policy, the Strategy is a useful resource for anyone interested in learning what is being done - and what other work can be done - to stop drug production and trafficking, prevent drug use, and provide care for those who are addicted. For parents, teachers, community leaders, law enforcement officers, elected officials, ordinary citizens, and others concerned about the health and safety of our young people, the Strategy is a valuable tool that not only informs but also can serve as a catalyst to spark positive change.

McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition's Drug Takeback Program

In an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription drugs not being disposed of properly, we have newly designed billboards up around the county.  It is our hope that this leads to the proper disposal of some of these dangerous drugs.  Thanks to the cooperation of the local police departments, local residents can stop and drop off medications at one of many locations across the county.   

Local Youth Kick Off Public Awareness Campaign

Statewide effort send message that underage drinking prevention is everyone’s responsibility

Woodstock School District 200 S.A.D.D. and O.C.E.A.N.S. groups from both high schools kicked off “Your Actions Matter!” a youth-led initiative to change adult attitudes about giving alcohol to minors at local stores in Woodstock including Jewel, WalMart, Armanettis and several smaller convenience stores om May 6, 2015.  This public awareness campaign has been in stores state-wide throughout the Spring.  “Your Actions Matter!” materials were created and provided by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission’s Don’t Be Sorry campaign to remind the general public that everybody in a community plays a role in preventing underage drinking.


These youth are part of a movement of youth statewide working with participating stores to spread the word that “Your Actions Matter!” should any adult be tempted to purchase alcohol for somebody under the age of 21.  The youth-designed program carries a positive message, and serves as a reminder that  the vast majority of adults in Illinois do NOT give alcohol to minors.

For more information please go to: