DEA head Chuck Rosenberg speaks candidly at opioid crisis summit

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NEW HAVEN --  Dozens of law enforcement representatives, prosecutors, and loved ones of those impacted first hand by the opioid crisis in Connecticut gathered in New Haven Friday.

The opioid crisis summit was hosted by Yale University Law School and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The intention of the summit was to spread awareness and education about the grave impacts of the opioid crisis locally and nationwide.

Connecticut is currently on track to lose more people to opioid overdoses in 2017 than ever before.

Chuck Rosenberg, Acting Administrator for the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, on heels of his announced resignation, spoke at Friday’s summit.

Rosenberg highlighted such statistics as “four out of every five heroin users begin opioid use with prescription pain medication.” He emphasized the nation needs to change the culture and the way the opioid crisis is thought about and tackled.

Rosenberg the difficulties with tracking the severity of the opioid epidemic nationwide, pointing out that the only real way to quantify it is through overdose deaths.  He highlighted, however, the advent of the overdose reversal drug Narcan has meant there are thousands of opioid overdoses daily that don’t end in death.

Rosenberg also talked directly to the police officers in the room about the growing dangers of Fentanyl, a synthetic substance that is being mixed into heroin at a quickly increasing rate.

"Fentanyl is a hell of a lot cheaper than heroin, you don't have to harvest it or cultivate it, it's just made in a lab, most of it comes from China, and it's damn cheap and so easy to make,” Rosenberg explained during his keynote speech.  He went on to say, “the bad guys, and believe me  there are bad guys operating up here, profiting off of misery, that are cutting it into heroin, but not just heroin, we've seen it in cocaine, we've seen it in meth, we're even now getting reports, this is astonishing, of fentanyl in marijuana.  It will kill you.”

During the question and answer portion of the discussion he suggested there be a universal, mandated education program for physicians about the dangers of prescription opioids as a means to try and break what he called habits and knee jerk prescription writing practices.

The DEA has launched a downloadable STEM based curriculum called Operation Prevention available for school districts to use for free.  Rosenberg said the program is geared towards middle school and high school age students.

For ways you or a loved one can find help with an opioid addiction, click here.