CHEROKEE Co., GA -- The year has just begun and already, people are dying from overdoses. In Cherokee County, nine people died in 19 days. Three of those deaths happened on the same day, January 14.
The GBI tracks these deaths and said there is not enough information yet to determine if any are related. Right now, the deaths are suspected to be drug-related and investigators are waiting on toxicology reports to get the final reason.
Cherokee County is always either the first or second highest county for drug deaths. They go back and forth with Richmond County. According to the GBI, Cherokee averages 35 to 45 drug-related deaths a year, that averages out to about three or four deaths a month. If all nine January deaths are officially ruled to be drug-related, this would be about a 150 percent increase.
The first suspected overdose death happened on January 5. There are no results yet about the suspected drugs that were in their system but noted that the person had a history of illicit drug use nine years ago.
The second was the next day. The drugs alprazolam, oxycodone and Lyrica are suspected in this case. Those drugs can be used to treat pain and anxiety.
The third was on January 11. The drug Trazadone, used to treat depression, along with syringes and white pills were found at the scene.
The fourth happened the next day, January 12. Investigators are waiting on results of the toxicology report to know what drugs were present in their system but noted a history of illicit drug use.
On January 14, there were three deaths. For one of those, investigators are also waiting on results of the toxicology reports but noted a history of illicit drug use. In another, methadone is a suspected drug in the case and investigators noted a history of heroin use. In the third, the drug Klonopin, used to treat seizures and anxiety, is the suspected drug in that case.
The eighth was on January 22. Heroin is the suspected drug in that case.
The ninth was the next day on January 24. Heroin along with methamphetamines are suspected in that case.
11Alive has requested additional details on these cases and the potential spike in overdose deaths from authorities. We will update this story as more information is available.
11Alive has been investigating overdose deaths in metro-Atlanta for more than a year. In 2016, the Atticus team uncovered a 4,000 percent spike in heroin-related deaths inside an area we called “The Triangle.”
LEARN MORE | Inside The Triangle
With the release of new state records in 2017, the loss of life remains at a record high and “The Triangle” has expanded. Parts of Cherokee County are in that expanded area.