Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency Chuck Rosenberg and Director of the FBI James Comey promoted a unified response to the nation’s opioid epidemic on Wednesday, during the official Prescription Opioid and Heroine Epidemic Awareness Week.
Held in Gaston Hall, the discussion also featured a screening of “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict,” a documentary co-produced by the FBI and DEA, illustrating the impacts of drug abuse.
The event was co-hosted by the McCourt School of Public Policy and the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Individuals featured in the documentary were also in attendance.
University President John J. DeGioia said Lynch’s work has made significant contributions in addressing the opioid epidemic.
“She has worked tirelessly to address the epidemic levels of opioid and heroine abuse and overdose deaths in our country,” DeGioia said, “Successfully engaging with this complex challenge facing our society is about, in her own words, quote, ‘making real and lasting progress on behalf of those with desperate need.’”
The Department of Health and Human Services reported 3.8 million people ages 12 and up are currently misusing prescription pain relievers in the United States. 47,000 people are dying each year from drug overdoses, according to Rosenberg.
“Georgetown undergrads number about 1,800, give or take, that would be like 25 years worth of graduates of this institution vanishing from the planet,” Rosenberg said.
Lynch said the epidemic transcends all facets of society.
“This number reflects the fact that this opioid epidemic is indifferent to race, to class, to age, or towards geography,” Lynch said. “It cuts across our entire society young, old, poor, rich, rural communities are some of the hardest hit, as well as our major cities.”
Lynch said it is important to set up a network of support for families dealing with the problem of drug addiction.
“Despite the devastation that these families experienced, they have all chosen to act because they knew that one of the problems that they faced when they were fighting the fight, trying to save their loved ones was the thought that they were alone in the fight, not knowing that other families were also in the same situation,” Lynch said.
Lynch said it was necessary for all aspects of society to work together in order to address the opioid epidemic.
“The only way that we can end this epidemic is by adopting the all hands approach that bring everyone together: law enforcement, community leaders, medical professionals and ordinary citizens in a truly united front against this destructive epidemic,” Lynch said.
Rosenberg said the DEA’s work goes far beyond simply the criminal prosecution of those responsible for drug accessibility, but also seeks to reduce demand through education.
“Part of this has to be: demand reduction, and part of that involves all of you, so take this, show it to someone you love, have that conversation, don’t just leave here tonight and do nothing. This is an epidemic and we are losing way too many people to it,” Rosenberg said.
Comey said this mission is universal and has ramifications for a series of areas of concern for the FBI.
“It also aligns with our professional responsibilities because we see echoes of this in all the rest of our world: we see its echoes in our sex trafficking work, we see its echoes in our cyber extortion and sextortion work, we see its echoes in our fraud work, our money laundering work, our gangs work,” Comey said.
Comey emphasized there is a duty to those who have suffered from this disease, as well as their families, to make a unified effort to combat it.
“I believe to my core that no matter why that bad thing happened to a good family, to a good child, to a good spouse, our obligation is to not let evil hold the field, to make sure something good comes from that loss, not to make it worth it, it will never be worth it, but simply because that’s our obligation to go on and to ensure that evil is fought,” Comey said.
The event also included a panel after the movie with the Assistant Administrator of the DEA Louis Milione, Executive Director of the Steve Rummler Foundation, Lexi Reed Holtum, Interim Chair of the School of Nursing and Health Studies Peggy Compton and Gina Woodward, whose son was a heroin addict and is now an advocate against opioid abuse. Dean Edward Montgomery of the McCourt School of public policy moderated the panel.
Emily Spann (MSB ’20) said she found the event to be an innovative way of fighting against the opioid epidemic.
“I found the event to be extremely enticing and a real eye opener. The discussion was very informative as well as welcoming to students and the questions they had,” Spann said.
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