State senator says Georgia has 'heroin epidemic' - CBS46 News

State senator says Georgia has 'heroin epidemic'

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CHEROKEE COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

It's a drug problem plaguing the state of Georgia: heroin.

Heroin is one of the cheapest and most dangerous drugs on the street and kills hundreds of Georgians every year.

It's so bad,  a state senator is calling it an epidemic.

Michelle Neese clings to photographs of her son Keely after his sudden death 15 months ago.

"What I would just give to hug him again," said Neese. "In his final moments I thought, 'did he lay there and know he was dying?'"

Neese raised an "all-American kid" in Cherokee County.  Keely Warren was athletic and had many friends, but his life took a terrible turn after becoming addicted to pain meds following a back injury while in his 20s.

"I knew he had a pill problem, but I didn't realize that the pills led to the heroin," said Neese.

At the age of 27, Keely Warren overdosed on heroin, drug that's accessible, a drug that's inexpensive, and a drug that stopped his heart.

"I lost it. God does things in ways that you don't understand at the time, but I can tell you that had Keely been able to be in a casket, I would have crawled in it and they wouldn't have been able to get me out," said Neese.

Last year, 85 people overdosed on heroin in Cherokee County alone. State Senator Bruce Thompson represents that area and said it's an epidemic statewide.

"The problem is when you get to heroin, that's the end, and so legislatively I think we have a responsibility to take a good look at this from a mental health standpoint and say what is it we can do for society to help with this," said Thompson.

Neese is now doing her part to help other families. She started the Keely Foundation in her son's memory and hopes to prevent another tragedy at the hands of heroin. 

"He hated this drug. He literally hated this drug," said Neese. "I want to save other parents from having to go through this. I want these kids to live and have a heartbeat."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18-25 in the past decade.

“One of the big dangers is that a person can think that they can tolerate a certain amount of heroin and what they buy is too much and it kills them,” Former state medical examiner Dr. Kris Sperry said.

Nine in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.

Forty-five percent of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers - like oxycodone.

Cherokee County is holding a town hall meeting on the issue on January 12 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Click here for more information. 

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