RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – As the Opioid crisis sweeps the nation, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor sits down for an exclusive interview to speak about a grown and violent addiction impacting his community.
Sheriff Taylor says at least one in five families are coping with a loved one battling a deadly addiction. Interactions between sober relatives and those suspected of being on drugs are becoming violent.
Just this week, Sheriff Taylor says a father shot and critically injured his son in Seale, Alabama. Taylor says the 38-year-old son had a history of drug abuse and threatened to kill his family.
“It’s crazy. We are seeing more and more violence from drug abuse. It’s just a shame. A father had to potentially shoot his son to prevent him from attacking him and killing him,’ said Sheriff Taylor.
The opioid crisis is exploding, and Sheriff Taylor says more families than you think are in its grips.
“I’m guessing one in five has a family member fighting addiction, if not one in three. It’s really bad. We’ve got horrible information, of Fentanyl in our area. We have had overdoses with it. We had at least one death. People don’t understand this stuff will kill you. You try it one time, and that’s all it takes,” explained Sheriff Taylor.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, and depending on the dosage, it can be 50 or 100 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin, and cause death. Sheriff’s deputies are now gloving up on a routine basis. They also carry Narcan, an antidote.
“We are doing what we can to stop it and make cases. It just seems to be getting worse and worse. We have administered Narcan, on at least two or three occasions and saved lives over the last six to seven months. They are lacing Fentanyl with everything: heroin, meth, marijuana to cocaine. It’s just an absolute nightmare,” shared Sheriff Taylor.
Taylor believes legalizing marijuana will only make Alabama’s addiction even worse.
“If you look at other states who have done that – their opioids have gone through the roof. I worked narcotics for eight years. I know marijuana is a stepping stone. I know some folks who have tried it (marijuana) and say they never moved on to anything else. I also know folks who did try (marijuana) and moved on to other drugs, and that’s the higher percentage,” said Taylor.
Taylor encourages families to lock up pain meds or trash them if no longer needed.
“We are battling it every day, to keep it out of our community and away from our kids,” shared Taylor.
According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths continue to increase in the United States:
- From 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people have died from a drug overdose.
- Around 68% of the more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid.
- In 2017, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and illegal opioids like heroin and illicitly manufactured Fentanyl) was six times higher than in 1999.
- On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
For more information on an overview of the epidemic and how to get help, you can visit: Center For Disease Control Understanding the Epidemic