Attorney General Loretta Lynch has designated the week of Sept. 19 as National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week. Accordingly, a large number of U.S. Attorney’s offices, including the Eastern District of Tennessee, are joining with federal law enforcement, engaging local community partners, and collaborating with medical professionals and public health officials, to help combat this growing epidemic.
On Aug. 2, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sponsored an Education and Prevention Summit to Combat Opioid Addiction in East Tennessee at the Bijou Theater in downtown Knoxville. Participants included representatives from the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Knoxville City Mayor’s Office, Knox County Medical Examiner, Knoxville Police Department, Knox County District Attorney’s Office, Metro Drug Coalition, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), and TBI Tennessee Dangerous Drug Task Force. The diverse group of attendees included medical professionals, pharmacists, health insurance providers, local, state and federal law enforcement and prosecutors, service providers, educational professionals and other local, state and federal officials.
In addition to panel discussions on the opioid addiction problems in East Tennessee and the law enforcement legislative and prosecutorial efforts to combat this growing problem, the summit highlighted the recent documentary Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict, which was produced by the FBI and DEA to help educate students and young adults about the dangers of opioid addiction. 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.
By viewing the documentary and participating in the after-discussions, attendees of the east Tennessee summit now have the knowledge and ability to act as messengers within the entire district to promote the documentary to school officials and suggest joint events for students, parents and educators at which it is featured and discussed.
To further encourage this effort, the documentary was also shared with local, state and federal law enforcement at the recent 2016 Intelligence Analysis Sharing: A Candid Look at Community Policing and DOJ Smart on Crime Initiative for the Eastern District of Tennessee, held in Gatlinburg, August 8-9, 2016. Additionally, staff members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office were invited to bring their families for an airing and discussion of the documentary during an upcoming district-wide office training event.
The video, Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict, can be found on either the FBI or DEA websites using the following links: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/raising-awareness-of-opioid-addiction or https://www.dea.gov/media/chasing-dragon.shtml.
During recently held discussions, law enforcement representatives across the district agreed that the rise of heroin use and the abuse of prescription opioids in the United States is currently our biggest challenge to public health and safety. It threatens communities, families, and children. Talking points provided by the Department of Justice, which are attached to this release, provide additional confirmation of the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription drug problems in the United States.
Now is the time for the public, law enforcement, medical professionals, law enforcement and service providers and other community leaders to work together to halt this growing epidemic. Only through action can awareness of the dangers posed by the consumption of prescription opioids, and a growing trend of heroin and fentanyl use be raised.
U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr is committed to holding those responsible who are poisoning our communities with these highly addictive drugs. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work together with law enforcement to prosecute federal offenses relating to the unlawful distribution of heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioids,” stated U.S. Attorney Harr. She further added, “We will also work with local, state and federal leaders to help educate the public regarding he dangers involved with the improper use and abuse of these powerful substances.”