CITC Brings Opioid Addiction Prevention to Area High Schools

Recovery staff co-hosts panel with FBI, DEA, and other partners

CITC Peer Support Recovery Supervisor Wesley Brewington speaks to students at Dimond High during a recent panel on Alaska’s opioid epidemic, co-hosted by CITC.

On January 9 and 10, students at Dimond High School confronted the true face of Alaska’s opioid epidemic during a panel co-hosted by Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Attorney’s office, and a group of local ER doctors.

Since 2017, this partnership has brought frank, open discussion about the opioid crisis to Anchorage high schools, including Polaris and Service High Schools and Specialized Academic Vocational Education (S.A.V.E.) High.

“Prevention is one of the strongest ways we can address this crisis,” said Venus Woods, CITC Reentry Manager. “The kids today are the ones who are going to have to deal with this crisis in the future, so giving them this chance to become informed and confront what’s happening in Alaska is the key to eventually overcoming this problem.”

In 2016, the rate of death from opioid overdose, including prescription drugs, was at its highest in Alaska since 2009. While adults, especially those aged 35 – 54, are the most affected by the use of heroin and other opioids, death rates among Alaskans aged 25 – 34 increased in 2016. The opioid panel offers students an opportunity to ask questions of law enforcement, doctors who see the effects of opioid use in a hospital setting, and individuals who have experienced addiction and recovery themselves.

The panel begins with a viewing of Chasing the Dragon, a documentary made by the FBI and DEA that offers a raw look at real-life opioid and prescription drug addicts and the devastation wrought by their addictions. Students hear from people just like them—individuals who were once happy, successful high schoolers, whose lives were completely altered by something as simple as misusing prescription drugs or taking a pill from a classmate.

After the documentary, members of the panel speak from their own experiences. Wesley Brewington, CITC Peer Support Recovery Supervisor, spoke about his effort to fit in with his peers through using drugs, and how addiction postponed him living the life he wanted.

“Prevention is one of the strongest ways we can address this crisis.”
– Venus Woods, CITC Reentry Manager

“I think seeing the reality of the situation was moving for the kids,” Wesley said. “And hearing from a normal guy like me, rather than a DEA or FBI agent, they can relate. They had great questions and they were really engaged. To give them an open space to talk about prevention is so important.”

“You can judge how a panel goes by how many questions the audience has,” added Venus, who, in addition to talking about recovery from the CITC perspective, shares her journey through addiction and prison to recovery and success. “These kids ask a ton of questions. Some of them come up to me afterward, concerned for a parent or a friend.”

CITC Recovery Services offers a continuum of recovery assistance and treatment programs for those recovering from addiction. To learn more about CITC Recovery Services or to seek assistance, visit the program page or call (907) 793-3200.