OKLAHOMA CITY -- A non-profit group with a mission to educate the public about drug abuse and addiction has launched a free docu-series chronicling the state’s opioid addiction epidemic.
Titled "Killing Pain," the seven-part documentary shares personal stories from Oklahomans and the biology of addiction. It was presented by the group Fighting Addiction Through Education ('FATE') and produced by Lampstand Media, a video production company based in Oklahoma City.
FATE founder Reggie Whitten said the goal of the docu-series is to draw attention to the opioid crisis.
"We’re up there with the AIDS crisis. The AIDS crisis has been around a lot longer but in a shorter period of time, the deaths and injuries are comparable,"
Whitten told News 4. "For every one person that dies, we have tens of thousands who are living a life of misery. They’re addicted to this highly addicted drug."
According to the CDC, more than 63,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016. The agency's Second Annual Report of Prescription and Illicit Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes reports an estimated 48.5 million persons in the United States reported use of illicit drugs or misuse of prescription drugs in the past year.
"This estimate includes use of marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and methamphetamines, and the misuse of
prescription drugs," the report states. "Reported prevalence of illicit drug use in the past year by drug type was: 13.9% for marijuana, 0.4% for heroin, 1.9% for cocaine, and 0.5% for methamphetamine. Reported prevalence of prescription drug misuse by drug type was: 4.3% for prescription pain relievers, 2.1% for prescription stimulants, 2.2% for prescription tranquilizers, and 0.6% for prescription sedatives. Reported prevalence of opioid misuse (heroin use or prescription pain reliever misuse) in the past year was 4.4%."
The docu-series by FATE, which is available to watch for free online, includes several medical experts along with stories of addiction. John McGregor, an Oklahoman, said his experience began with the use of the prescription drug Lortab while recovering from injury.
"I remember him [doctor] saying, you know, this isn’t a script you’re going to keep filling. This isn’t something we’re going to keep doing for you. Before I knew it, I was taking all of my script before my script was up," McGregor said. "I was taking more than what I should be taking."
He later resorted to Oxycotin.
"So, here I am trying to feed my physical pain thinking that’s what it was, but it was really withdrawal," he said. "Before I know it, I took all of my script before my scripts up and now I’m buying pills from somebody."
While McGregor was able to share his story, Whitten has devoted the past 16 years telling his son Brandon's story. Brandon was addicted to prescription painkillers and died in 2002 at 25 years old. Whitten said shortly after his son's death, he began traveling around the state and speaking with schools and civics groups about the opioid crisis.
"You can’t fight an enemy until you know everything there is to know about it and I’ve spent the last 16 years obsessively learning about enemy," he said. "Addiction is a very difficult adversary."
Whitten says the more people who watch the film, the better. While he said opioids do have valuable functions, they can be dangerous.
The problem of addiction, he says, needs to be combated with education.
"It’s hard to believe the power of this little molecule called an opioid. It is, in my humble opinion, the most powerful molecule on the planet. These opioids, the chemistry of them, they’re essentially heroin pills," he said. "You’re not going to get well by yourself if you run and hide or you hide your son or daughter's addiction. That won’t help. It will get worse. We’ve got to feel free to talk about it."
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, who was also interviewed for the docu-series, commended the final product.
“Killing Pain is a pioneering series that shines light on the tragic story of how our state got in this position and why we are close to ground zero in terms of the addiction epidemic,” Attorney General Hunter said. “I encourage all Oklahomans watch this gripping documentary that covers the many tragic aspects of the crisis and how it impacts all of us. Although the reality of the story is painful, the good news is, Oklahoma is rising to meet this challenge. State officials, business leaders and community organizers are tired of watching our families suffer and are stepping up and doing something about it."
For a link to the series, click here.