This documentary “Chasing the Dragon” puts a face on the opiate/heroin epidemic sweeping the United States. This public health issue has been decades in the making. The fact that it affects predominantly white families – affluent, middle class and the rural poor – has created a stigma that has kept this problem out of the public eye. Drug addiction has been treated as a failure of character in this country instead of as a disease. The crack epidemic of the 80s was considered a problem affecting the black community – “thugs” and “crackheads” were racially charged terms.
The genesis of this current opiate epidemic is the result of a perfect storm of circumstances covered in Sam Quinones book “DreamLand: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.” A single paragraph in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980 stating that there was no evidence that opiates used for pain management was addictive became the “research” quoted for the next two decades by big pharma as they sold millions of prescription painkillers to the public. That prescription painkiller market created a huge market for a much cheaper drug in the form of black tar heroin coming across the border from Mexico.
We need to understand this epidemic. It’s affecting every community large and small across the entire country. Many families will not talk about the drug addiction affecting their family members. There is a tremendous stigma that has kept it a secret for far too long. Unlike other illnesses, addiction is not something people are willing to talk about. That silence has allowed this problem to continue to spread.
Shining the light on this issue is the only way to beat back this insidious monster that is stealing people’s lives.