Inside Georgia's Opioid Crisis

Credit Jessica Gurell / GPB

Although it has not yet been declared an official emergency by the federal government, the opioid epidemic continues across the country. Georgia is no exception. Health care providers, law enforcement, and government officials continue to attempt to adapt. While new laws and procedures are being introduced to help address the abuse of prescription drugs as well as heroin and other opiate-based drugs, new threats such as fetanyl continue to complicate an already complex public health calamity.

From a long-running needle exchange program in the heart of Atlanta to methadone clinics in Northwest Georgia that cater to out-of-state patients to the lobbyists working for the pharmaceutical industry inside the Capitol, in this multi-part series, GPB News goes inside Georgia's opioid crisis. 

Jessica Gurell / GPB

Imagine that you haven't eaten in several days. What would you be thinking about? Most likely, food would be on your mind!

The craving for sustenance that you would feel is actually the brain’s mechanism that drives you to survive

That's how many people describe what its like to be addicted to opiates.

Jessica Gurell / GPB

On a recent sweltering afternoon, Jeremy stood on a street corner in Atlanta, remembering how his relationship with opioids started.

“I was stealing pain pills from my dad’s prescription jar: Percocet, Lortab, Oxycodone,” he said. “I had to have them before I went to work. I couldn’t work without them.”



Jessica Gurell / GPB

Drugs like fentanyl aren’t just creating new risks for human police officers. The dogs who use their powerful noses to sniff out drugs are inhaling the dangerous synthetic opioids as well. So police departments are taking new steps to protect their dogs – and respond if the K-9s get sick.

Normally, it’s a police dog’s job to protect its handler, not the other way around. If you’re a police dog and somebody runs at your human waving a weapon, there’s only one response: you attack.


Jessica Gurell / GPB

New Jersey police detective Eric Price came in contact with fentanyl while doing his job.

“I felt like my body was shutting down,” Price said. “People around me said that I looked really white and lost color, and it just really felt like, I thought I was dying.”