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ga opioid deaths

Elly Yu / WABE

Some law enforcement agencies in Georgia say they're having trouble affording a drug that reverses opioid overdoses.

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Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul said his county has been seeing more opioid overdose cases.

Naloxone, or Narcan, is a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, but Sproul said his department can’t afford as much as he’d like to see for his agency.  

“It’s a very limited number. I mean, we’re not near where we need to be with it,” he said.

Stephan Savoia / Associated Press

Naloxone, a medication used to prevent overdose from opioids, can be legally obtained at Georgia pharmacies without a prescription, after Gov. Nathan Deal directed the Georgia Pharmacy Board and Department of Public Health to issue what amounts to a “statewide prescription.”

Also known as an “opioid antagonist,” naloxone is administered when a drug user begins to show the effects of an overdose, countering those effects, and potentially saving the victim's life.

Dr. Jonathan Eisentat is the GBI's chief medical examiner. He says the number of heroin-related deaths is doubling, so there's a need for more investigators and more morgue space.
Alison Guillory / WABE

More than 1,200 people in Georgia died of a drug overdose in 2014, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To keep up with the increase in these cases, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Medical Examiner's office in south DeKalb County is spending $4.5 million to expand its morgue and office space.

Morgue Space

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says heroin overdoses tracked throughout most of the state more than doubled last year compared to the previous year.

The GBI says so far it's counted 134 people who died of an overdose related to heroin in 2015, compared to 61 in 2014. The agency says last year’s number could still go up because there are a few cases the medical examiner hasn't finished.

Last year marks the second time in a row Georgia saw heroin overdoses double year-over-year.

Alison Guillory / WABE


Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013. 

That’s the day David Laws got the call every parent dreads.

“And I just knew something was wrong,” Laws said.

The night before, Laws had spoken with his daughter Laura, who was staying at a friend’s house.

The call came from Laura’s mom, Laws' ex-wife.

“Her mom was screaming over the phone. And I just hung up on her,” Laws said. “Then I picked it up, and she said, you know, Laura’s dead.”

Laura had overdosed on a combination of morphine, cocaine and alcohol. She was 17 years old.