The Heroin Triangle Explodes in Suburban Atlanta

Heroin addiction has swept across North Atlanta connecting Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties at alarming rates.  According to The Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia has become one of the top states in the country to report a staggering number of deaths due to high Opioid overdoses.

 By TOMIKA MCGHEE

MARIETTA, Ga. – Dantevious Smith, a 26-year-old heroin addict has been in recovery for five years.  Smith started using drugs his sophomore year at Sprayberry High School in Cobb County, hanging out with older kids who were in 12th grade.

Initially, he used cocaine just as a weekend party drug after baseball and soccer games.

“It was just the cool thing to do at games and kickbacks, which were known as house parties,” Smith said.

Smith was introduced to heroin by some players on his baseball team during his senior year of high school. He injured his right shoulder, causing a right shoulder rotator cuff tear after a baseball game. “

Heroin 007

Photo By MEKA MCGHEE

“Heroin became my go-to pain reliever instead of Motrin or Ibuprofen,” Smith said.

Smith became totally dependent on heroin to cope with his shoulder pain, college choices and the pressures of winning each game. He was offered numerous athletic scholarships for baseball but could no longer function and hide his secret.

“I lost my scholarship to a junior college in Kentucky because I failed a drug test,” Smith said.

Smith is now living as a substance abuse counselor in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He has no regrets and hopes he can touch as many young lives as possible to help them get through substance abuse addictions.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, heroin-related have sky-rocketed by 3,900 percent in the past six years in a cluster of counties involving Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett. The areas of heavy populated deaths and drug use are in the northern affluent suburban communities.

Heroin is being combined with Fentanyl that is taking people out,” said Smith.

Substance abuse counselors are noticing a new spin with the consumption of heroin use from 10 years ago. In Cobb County alone, more people died from heroin overdoses than murders in 2014. Heroin is now considered an epidemic.

Heroin 008

Photo By MEKA MCGHEE

Over time, painkillers were misused for profit,  causing a 25-year epidemic.

“Heroin does not discriminate against race, creed or color. It’s demographics,” said Dr. Rajnish Guiral,  a hospitalist at WellStar Cobb Hospital,

Gujral explains the short and long-term effects of heroin. In short-term effects, opioid receptors can quickly bind together as morphine; once heroin enters the brain, it causes a strong sensation rushed feeling of euphoria, itching and dry mouth.

Long-term effects of heroin cause severe withdrawals, decision-making abilities causing deterioration of the brain’s white matter and physical long-term dependency on the body. “I once treated a patient in the emergency room, where he pleasured himself after injecting heroin,” Gujral said.

Opioid addiction is affecting Georgians at an alarming rate. According, to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 65,000 people in the United States died of heroin and opioid-related deaths in 2016.

That year, Georgia lost 1,394 people to this epidemic. Nearly two- thirds of those deaths were heroin addicts.

The deadliest year on record for heroin and opioid-related deaths was in 2016 and statistics report the number of abusers will continue to climb.

Not only does heroin have an impact in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, it has swept through Middle and South Georgia in 2017, killing four people within 48 hours and dozens were hospitalized.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the House Bill 965, “Georgia 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law,” in April 2014. This law protects drug abusers and individuals who reach out for medical help in the event an overdose occurs.

The Amnesty Law provides limited immunity for certain drugs and amounts that are confiscated when medical attention is administered.

The opioid addiction began in the late 1990s when pharmaceutical companies promoted“NO ADDICTIONS” to healthcare providers.

As a result, physicians began writing prescriptions nonstop without researching the medications extensively.

Forty-one states in America permits local pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS to

sell Naloxone (Narcan) without a prescription.  The price of Naloxone can cost about

$130 per vial. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that prescription-opioid misuse alone is a $78.5 billion economic burden in the United States each year.

The $78.5 billion economic burden of opioid abuse not only involves prescription misuse, but it cost to facilitate criminal justice cases and addiction treatment centers.

In 2015, more than 30,000 Americans lost their lives in overdose-related cases involving heroin and other opioid misuses.

Under President Donald Trump’s Administration, implementation to take control of the opioid crisis across this country will start with federal funding for states that are at the forefront of the lines in beating the crisis.

Several grants will be given to states to help with accountability for treatment centers and education. These assistance programs will help individuals without income and a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-based referral source.

Americans are fighting the opioid epidemic all over the United States.  Educating and managing health care and treatment will provide a path in combating addiction. Last month, President Trump launched a new website, called the www.CrisisNextDoor.gov.

This website helps others who have overcome opioid addiction reach out to the community about the dangers of this drug. https://www.whitehouse.gov/opioids

Awareness of appropriate use of prescribed opioids will be necessary as well.  According to whitehouse.gov, Georgia will be receiving some of these grants to help save lives.

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