Fulton D.A.: Heroin use now at ‘crisis stage’ and growing

Employing a mix of hard data and anecdotal heartbreak, Fulton County’s top officials made it clear Friday that Atlanta and its northern suburbs are in the midst of a heroin epidemic.

“We are staring at crisis that gives every indication it will grow worse,” Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard said.


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The numbers are jarring. In 2010 the Fulton medical examiner’s office recorded four heroin-related deaths. That number grew to 77 in 2014 and, while final figures for 2015 are not yet available, at least 82 deaths in the county have been connected to heroin use, the district attorney said.

“If we assume a 20 percent increase we could see 278 deaths in 2021,” said Kevin Baldwin, one of the authors of just-released study on the scope of Fulton’s heroin problem. A 50 percent increase is more realistic, he said.

A quarter of those 154 deaths from 2010-14 took place in two zip codes, 30314 and 30318, covering Vine City and English Avenue, according to the study. Eighteen percent have come in north Fulton, which has seen the biggest growth in heroin casualties.

“Ninety percent of the people who initiate heroin use are white males between the ages of 18 and 25,” Baldwin said. “In more affluent areas, people are starting younger.”

On March 3, 2014, 20-year-old Chelsea Bennett, of Johns Creek, overdosed almost immediately after she was injected with extra-pure heroin. The man who injected her eventually plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

“There was no evidence of drug use in her life,” her mother, Rita Bennett, told reporters Friday. Now, “every day is like March 3.”

— A more complete story can be found late Friday afternoon on myajc.com.