For many, the American Dream evokes the ideas of white picket fences, financial prosperity, and happy families. In many ways, the suburbs north of Atlanta, Georgia, embody those images of a perfect suburban life. However, a dark secret lurks beneath the surface of what otherwise seems like a picture-perfect metropolis. Between 2010 and 2015, heroin-related deaths in Georgia’s suburban communities increased by nearly 4000%. Many of these tragedies took the lives of young people between the ages of 18 and 25.
Because of this outbreak, experts now refer to the areas of Kennesaw, Acworth, Cartersville, Cumming, and surrounding cities as the Heroin Triangle. Between 2015 and 2017, the area of the Heroin Triangle also expanded northward into portions of Cherokee and Forsyth counties. The Heroin Triangle doesn’t represent the area of the most heroin use in Georgia. The area of highest heroin use has consistently been the Bluffs area of Atlanta. However, the Heroin Triangle does represent the area of the most rapid growth. Despite the increase, people in Georgia work hard to advocate for change and to focus on prevention education in school. But even with these efforts, many people in Georgia are suffering and dying from heroin addictions.
If you live in Georgia and you or a loved one suffers from an addiction to heroin, we can help. Call us at 706-480-8733 for advice and help finding a treatment center.
The Heroin Triangle has caused incredible amounts of damage over the past decade. In a documentary series called “The Triangle: Heroin is killing young people in the Atlanta suburbs,” NBC-affiliate news station 11Alive investigated Georgia’s heroin problem. As part of the documentary series, they interviewed several heroin users, former heroin users, and their families. One former heroin user, Dustin Daigle, expressed his grief. “In the past year, I’ve had eight friends die,” he said. “I’m tired of losing friends. I really am. It’s terrible to see your friends die.” Mothers who had lost children to heroin addictions also grieved. One mother said, “There’s nothing like losing a child. Nothing even comes close.”
But according to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, the Heroin Triangle not only impacts individuals, but also the communities that house these problems. Governor Deal called the Heroin Triangle “an ongoing epidemic that ravages the hearts and minds of not only individuals but also the communities that they touch.”
While the Heroin Triangle is the focal point of the epidemic in Georgia, it only represents one part of the state-wide drug problem. Even outside the Heroin Triangle, heroin addiction presents a significant problem to individuals, families, and communities. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 60% of drug overdose deaths involved opioids. Overall, 866 Georgians died of an opioid overdose in 2018. Of those, 299 Georgians died of a heroin overdose in 2018. But these tragedies didn’t begin in 2018. Years of trafficking and heroin use led to these 2018 deaths.
In Georgia, opioid-involved overdose deaths have been rapidly increasing since 2010. Between 2010 to 2019, the number of opioid-related deaths increased from 514 deaths to 913 deaths. That’s a 78% increase. Although many of these deaths happen because of prescription opioids such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, heroin is also responsible for many other opioid deaths. Most often, heroin-involved overdoses happened most often to people between the ages of 25 to 34. Further, many people went to the hospital because of their heroin use. In 2019, 1416 people went to the emergency room because of heroin. Of those people, 339 Georgians went on to be hospitalized. Emergency room visits due to heroin peaked in 2017, when 1521 Georgians went to the emergency room. Of those people, 321 went to the hospital. However, even those who don’t lose their lives or go to the hospital can suffer deeply from a heroin addiction.
In 2018, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a national survey. This survey shows the impact of drug use nationally and by state. According to the survey, 847,000 Americans used heroin between 2017 and 2018. Of those hundreds of thousands, 84,000 Georgians used heroin during the same span of time. Additionally, 821,000 Georgians had used illicit drugs sometime in the past month at the time of the survey. Illicit drugs include misusing prescription psychotherapeutics or using marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or methamphetamine. Additionally, 264,000 people had used illicit drugs that did not include marijuana in the past month. That number includes heroin use.
In the documentary series called “The Triangle: Heroin is killing young people in the Atlanta suburbs,” the narrator posits that there are only three results to a heroin addiction: recovery, jail, or death. While this claim might sound sensational, it seems to reflect the truth in Georgia. In this state, having more than 4 kilograms of heroin at any time is considered trafficking. For trafficking between 4 and 14 grams of heroin, a person has a mandatory of 5 years in prison and $50,000 in fines. If a person trafficks 14-28 grams, then they have a mandatory of 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. Finally, if they have more than 28 grams, then they have a mandatory of 25 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. Further, if someone is caught selling heroin, they are charged with a felony and go to prison for between 5 to 30 years. If there is another offense after the person gets released from prison, then they receive life imprisonment.
Since drugs are often trafficked from the Southern border of the US, many people find that heroin is accessible and cheap. Because trafficking has increased in recent years, several large investigations have taken place. For example, in a recent case, federal agents found 170 kilograms of heroin, 10 kilograms of cocaine, eight kilograms of marijuana, more than $1 million in cash, and 41 firearms. The value of the drugs all together turned out to be worth about $8.5 million. Investigators found Antonio DaShawn Daniels guilty and convicted him on August 11, 2020. Special investigator Robert Murphy said that this was the biggest seizure in Georgia’s history.
The drug crisis must stop at the source. However, heroin comes from different countries and is sold by different groups, so it can be hard to get a handle on. Law enforcement is doing their best to keep the situation under control. From 1998 to 2000 the law enforcement in Georgia seized more quantities of heroin. The number then decreased in 2001. Drug-related federal sentences in Georgia involving heroin are considerably lower as compared to the nationwide average. This doesn’t mean that the drug hasn’t done its damage, however. In Georgia deaths involving heroin continued to rise with a 2.9 increased rate in 2018.
Heroin use in Georgia also leads to higher rates of HIV. These two correlate because HIV spreads through sex and through injection drug use. Of the 38,266 new HIV diagnoses in 2017, 2,564 occurred in Georgia. This was at an increased rate of 29.7. Among males, 4.1% of HIV diagnoses were attributed to injection drug use. For females newly diagnosed with HIV, 7.9% were from injection drug use. Of the 52,528 people living with HIV in Georgia in 2017, many were from injection drug use. Of the males, 11.2% was from injection drug use and among the females, 14.4% was from injection drug use. Those that struggle with heroin abuse in Georgia and commit crimes is limited. Most criminal activities from those struggling with this addiction in Georgia tend to be nonviolent property crimes.
Once an individual starts using drugs that one action is often followed by more dangerous actions. The correlation between heroin use and HIV infection is not surprising. It is important that issues related to drug addiction are also dealt with in treatment. Resources for individuals struggling with these issues must also be available. Sometimes substance abuse treatment alone doesn’t do enough to combat an individual’s issues. One must look at the full picture and face all their issues when it comes to treatment. Through law enforcement, treatment centers, and more education on the issue, Georgia can get better.
While many people in Georgia find the treatment they need, hundreds of thousands do not. A national survey by SAMHSA reported that 520,000 Georgians needed treatment for substance use disorder, but they did not receive it. Further, 215,000 people in Georgia needed treatment for illicit drug use in 2018, but they didn’t receive it. Clearly, more people in Georgia need to receive treatment. Struggling with addiction alone is challenging. It can feel as though there is no hope when it comes to recovering from addiction. The support of family and friends isn’t enough. Often, if a community is lacking treatment centers and other resources it may be difficult for individuals to get the help they need.
In Georgia’s recent history, more people have enrolled in heroin-related treatment programs. Around twenty years ago, between 1997 and 2001, the treatment admission number rose from 171 people to 628. Drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine have more publicly funded facilities in Georgia, according to TEDS.
Although the effects of heroin use in Georgia are devastating, you can find the help you need. We can help you find the right treatment for yourself or a loved one. In Georgia, there are 295 addiction treatment centers. Of these, 66 prescribe buprenorphine. This medication helps people who suffer from opioid addictions. Further, 69 treatment centers have SAMHSA-certified Opioid Treatment Programs. Though heroin addictions can be devastating on an individual, family, and community level, you can find hope. You can find the treatment program that is perfectly suited to your needs or your loved one’s needs. If intervention is needed there are services for that as well. An intervention specialist can help you get a loved one the help they need. Other services such as detox are also available. It is important that an addict starts clean when beginning treatment. Outpatient and inpatient care are available when it comes to recovery treatment. What works best depends on the individual. Now is the time to look into a treatment center near you or a loved one.
Call today and speak with an expert staff member. They can answer any questions you may have in regards to treatment, addiction, and the best steps to take for a full recovery. Regardless of the current situation, it is possible to have a better future. There is a future waiting that involves the sober version of you or a loved one. Seek out treatment now in Georgia and help end the drug crisis. Call us at 706-480-8733 for help finding a treatment center or to learn more about heroin use in Georgia.