Law enforcement officials want to give the public a better picture of the toll drug abuse can take.
The far-reaching effects of the drug industry are captured in a traveling exhibit of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Museum, “Drugs, Costs and Consequences,” that will be on display in Leesburg through September.
A crowd gathered Tuesday to formally open the 10,000-square-foot display with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Through powerful visuals, the exhibit presents a look at the destructive health, environmental, safety and family impacts of substance abuse. It has traveled to 10 cities in the past 10 years, and been toured by more than 22 million people.
Admission to the exhibit is free. It is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 750 Miller Drive SE Suite F-1 in Leesburg.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman said the display could not come at a better time because of the swell in local heroin and prescription drug abuse cases in recent years. Curbing substance abuse needs to be about cracking down on drug producers and sellers, as well as working on preventative efforts by educating the public, he said.
“We’re approaching this from all angles,” he said, noting that the exhibit is the education piece of that effort.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said help addressing heroin and illegal prescription use was one of the most repeated requests that he heard from local law enforcement officers when he took office two years ago.
Last year alone, heroin and prescription drug addiction claimed the lives of more than 700 people in the state, he said. “It’s devastating, and it’s crossing all kinds of socioeconomic lines. No corner of Virginia is unaffected by this.”
His office has stepped up efforts to go after the men and women who are profiting from drug sales, from doctors who write illegal prescriptions to high-profile drug dealers.
“We’ve prosecuted more than 28 cases involving over 200 pounds of heroin, and we’ll continue to do that,” Herring said.
But, echoing other speakers at the ceremony, the attorney general reiterated that prosecutors cannot do it alone. “We are not truly going to get this turned around without serious prevention and education efforts, and this kind of an exhibit is a huge tool in that effort.”
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10) said during a visit to Central and South Americas last summer she saw the horrific effects the drug industry has had on the communities in Columbia, Peru and Panama. The U.S. has implemented programs to train people in those countries caught up in drug production and trafficking for other professions. She met one woman who was proud to now produce chocolate instead of cocaine.
“We need to continue to work on solving this problem at its source, as well as educating the public here,” she said.
Several Loudoun schools already have field trips to the exhibit planned, and a representative from the DEA Educational Foundation said the organization would pay the way for students to visit the exhibit if they’re inhibited by transportation costs.
Learn more at drugexhibit.org.