OLNEY, Md. - Nearly 50,000 people died last year from heroin overdoses, and more children die from drug overdoses than in car accidents.
The exploding public health crisis has become a priority for law enforcement in our area.
Jimena Ryan’s 25-year-old son died from a heroin overdose on January 30, but his struggle with addiction did not start with heroin.
From marijuana to alcohol abuse, Casey was in and out of rehab until one year ago when he was showing promise.
But then he suffered a setback after a major foot injury.
"The pain medication really was the segue into the heroin,” said Ryan. “Doctors are overprescribing medicine. The whole system is broken. It is a perfect storm.”
While Casey found heroin through his pain medication, for others it is curiosity, thrill seeking, peer pressure or boredom.
“But what they don't realize is it only takes once, in many cases, for them to open the door to a killer. Because this stuff kills,” Ryan said. “Kids are playing Russian roulette because they have no idea what they're getting.”
Jimena is part of a group of mothers that she says grows by the week as heroin grabs hold of kids at an alarming pace.
"Parents are worried about marijuana. Are you kidding me? There's heroin all over Sherwood -- as with all the other high schools in the area.”
Looking back, she said the night before Casey died was a good night.
“He gave me a big hug. ‘I love you mom. We’re going to spend the day together tomorrow. I’ll call you in the morning,’” said Ryan.
But that call never came.
“I couldn’t save my kid. I tried everything that I knew,” Ryan said. “No mom should ever know what her kid’s heart weighed.”
Jimena is now fighting for other children because she says it will take a village to protect communities against this epidemic.
She said she has several initiatives she is working on to help others.