FBI reaching out to high schools to combat drug problem


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — FBI officials want to take the fight against illegal drugs to Kentucky’s high schools. In making their case, they’ll be armed with a documentary showcasing, through the words of addicts, the ravages caused by heroin and prescription drug abuse.

The initiative comes as health officials refer to drug overdoses as a public health crisis in Kentucky, and an FBI official acknowledges the drug scourge is spreading faster than law enforcement can keep up with it.

Howard S. Marshall, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Louisville Division, said the outreach is aimed at persuading teens to resist experimenting with drugs. FBI officials invited to high schools will show the film featuring people talking about how dabbling with drugs turned into addictions.

“We hope to get that message to them early,” Marshall told reporters Thursday. “So when that peer pressure that inevitably comes with the decision of whether or not to use drugs is there, they have the real facts … that will allow them to possibly make a life-saving decision.”

Marshall acknowledged that drug organizations are formidable adversaries for law enforcement working to dismantle them.

“The groups that are in this business know exactly what they’re doing, and right now they’re doing it well,” he said. “It’s clearly spreading faster than law enforcement can keep up with it.”

“I don’t know how long this epidemic is going to last,” he added. “My hope is that we’re hitting the peak or we’ve peaked and we’re plateauing and maybe we’re on the other end. That’s probably wishful thinking.”

The 45-minute documentary — Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict — was unveiled this year by the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration as part of a national initiative. In the film, addicts talk about getting hooked as teens. One says drugs “turned me into a monster.” Another says heroin became her “best friend,” and others talk about stealing from their families to pay for their addictions.

Schools can go to fbi.gov to download a free copy of the video and discussion guide.

Kentucky’s heroin scourge is so significant that school staffs should “treat it as a threat,” Marshall said.

“They need to be helping their students deal with the peer pressure that comes with using drugs,” he said.

Marshall is leaving Kentucky soon for a new role at FBI headquarters.

Police, emergency responders and hospitals staffs in Louisville dealt with a recent spike in heroin overdoses. Drug prevention officials said the surge was likely caused by a heroin shipment laced with another powerful drug, perhaps fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

Communities in Ohio, West Virginia and Indiana also saw overdose spikes in recent weeks.

Public health officials say at least 12 drug overdose deaths occurred in Kentucky during the Labor Day weekend.

Concern about overdose deaths is so acute that health officials are promoting so-called Good Samaritan provisions in Kentucky law that prohibit prosecution of drug users who seek medical assistance for others who overdose.

Last year, statewide drug overdose deaths in Kentucky totaled 1,248, up from 1,071 in 2014.

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