CUMMING, Ga. — Drug overdose deaths have gone up 17% over the past year in Georgia. That's the 11th highest increase out of all states nationwide.
A Forsyth County woman knows that tragedy all too well.
Jennifer Hodge started the non-profit organization Realty4Recovery after losing family members to accidental drug overdose deaths. She said what has happened to her family is simply hard for anyone to comprehend.
Hodge organizes a teacup memorial each year in Cumming. The faces of more than 5,000 people who lost their lives to drug overdoses are on display there.
“I lost a brother in 1999. This is when they first brought out OxyContin," Hodge said.
Then in 2016, her nephew died from a drug overdose.
“He passed six hours before Robbie," Hodge said. "I was in Cobb County with my sister.”
Robbie was Jennifer's son. He promised not to use drugs in a video she shot.
“I had to call my sister and say, get back. Robbie’s dead too, so she turned the car around and called the paramedics for me," Hodge said.
Robbie died after taking a fake Xanax pill and was unaware it was laced with fentanyl, a powerful drug about 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin.
“That was Mike at the last Teacup memorial," Hodge said. "I can just see the anguish in his face, sitting in looking at Robbie’s picture.”
Mike, Robbie's dad, faced depression after his son's death.
“His picture will now go besides Robbie’s picture," she said.
That's because Mike died this June from the same drug that took his son's life.
“Mike, honestly, was one of the most giving, caring, loving people that you would ever know," Hodge said.
Jennifer now grieves the loss of four family members.
“I have friends now that are losing their 12, 13, 14, 15 year olds," Hodge said.
She sees the faces of this tragedy getting younger and younger and hopes people hear this message.
“Never trust a drug dealer," Hodge said. "Never trust it. Just you can't do it anymore. There's nothing that you can do that is safe unless it comes from a prescription that you're getting it at the pharmacy.”
Robbie Hodge would have turned 29 on Sunday, October 16. Jennifer handed out free Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of a drug overdose, to honor him. To get a kit, you can contact her at (678) 793-1303.