JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville has a heroin problem. It’s a problem so large that more than ten people died from overdosing just this week. Close to 500 people died from overdosing in 2016.
One Thursday, Councilman Bill Guilford held a town hall to talk about the issue. The meeting had speakers from the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department , the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Medical Examiner’s Office.
"This past weekend, we have seven pregnant women, 6 were addicted to heroin,” said Dr. Raymond Pomm with Gateway Detox.
John Stone started using drugs in high school. Now 44 years old and 8 months sober the father of two, he says heroin is one of the most potent drugs he's ever seen.
"I knew it was, try and get better or die. I didn't want to die,” said Stone.
Stone is now living at Gateway Detox, a rehab facility on Jacksonville's Westside. “It’s easier to get now. it really is."
Heroin is growing in popularity because it's cheap and now more powerful. That's because many dealers are now lacing the drug with Fentanyl. The morgue is full in Duval County in large part because of heroin related deaths.
Last year, close to 500 people died from drug overdoses. In 2015, 201 people died. On average, the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department responds to a patient who has overdosed every two hours.
Dr. Raymond Pomm is with Gateway Detox. "We don't see alcoholics often, we see some, but now it is the opiates, heroin and the combinations." He says a lot of the dangerous drugs being added to heroin come from China.
He's encouraged, though, by a new ban. This month China halted the manufacture and sale of four variations of Fentanyl. "Now that they have made the decision to make it illegal they have woken up, realized the problem and said let’s do our part to fix the problem,” says Pomm.
Stone says since being sober five of his friends died from overdosing. He says he doesn't want to see anyone else die.
Stone says Gateway Detox helped his turn his life around. "When I was using I didn't see no light at the end of tunnel. I do now."
He says he hopes sharing his story will help other addicts know there is a way out. "It is a lifelong process but I know where I am now and where I was then and I don't want to be there anymore so I am glad that I’m here."