Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Loyola hosts screening and panel discussion about heroin addiction

Susan Gisleson, middle, lost her son to a heroin overdose seven months ago and sits on a panel to discuss heroin and opioid addiction. The panel followed the screening Monday, Sept. 19 of “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict” in Nunemaker Auditorium. Photo credit: Tasja Demel

Nunemaker Auditorium hosted a screening Sept. 19 of “Chasing The Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict,” promoted by the Department of Justice and brought to Loyola as part of National Heroin and Opiate Awareness Week.

The event began with a screening of the documentary, followed by a panel discussion. Panelists addressed topics including the threat of heroin and opioid use in the U.S. and New Orleans, statistics surrounding local deaths caused by drug overdose and what panelists were doing throughout the New Orleans community in response to the epidemic. The event concluded with a brief question and answer session.

Kenneth Polite, U.S. attorney, addressed opiate and heroin use as a national crisis, but also provided a local breakdown of drug abuse. Polite said 127 people in just three Louisiana parishes, including Orleans, died in 2015 from heroin overdoses. According to the documentary, 46 thousand people die every year of a drug overdose, and of those deaths, approximately half are because of opioids.

On the panel was also Jeffrey Rouse, Orleans Parish Coroner; Jeffrey Sallet with the New Orleans FBI; Stephen Azzam from the Drug Enforcement Administration; and Susan Gisleson, a local resident who shared the story of her son’s seven year struggle with addiction that led to his death seven months ago.

FBI Agent Sallet had not seen “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict” prior to the event, but described the documentary as “pretty disturbing, to say the least.”

Emily Bagwill, musical theater freshman and New Orleans native, was shocked to find out heroin and opiate abuse is so prevalent on a local level and now hopes to take action.

Polite said opioid and heroin use in New Orleans is fueling violence, destroying communities and leading to death. Rouse compared the 83 deaths from heroin overdose in Orleans parish so far in 2016 to the 66 murders in the parish during that same timespan.

During the panel discussion, three recovering addicts in the audience stood up to share how long they have been sober and to thank those on the panel for their presence and their action in fighting
the epidemic.

“[Drug abuse] is not a lifestyle choice. It is a disease like diabetes that must be treated every day,” Gisleson said.

The panel plans to take their presentation to various local high schools and neighborhoods in New Orleans to help raise awareness.

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