DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - In the first six months of the year, Dougherty County saw a huge improvement in the number of opioid-related drug deaths, according to Coroner Michael Fowler.
Though any death is a tragedy, Fowler said there have only been two opioid overdose deaths in Dougherty County so far, with five total drug-related deaths this year.
Three of those were related to cocaine, while two were related to heroin (an opioid) and meth.
Fowler said he is waiting on toxicology reports for two more deaths.
During 2017, 17 people died from drug overdoses.
"I think people are paying attention," Fowler explained. "I think the more awareness and the alarm that people are seeing that's on TV, they think it's real. They're staying away from it."
Fowler said he believes awareness, arrests by law enforcement, EMS and hospital staff have contributed to that decline.
However, Fowler said he wants to warn everyone that you are taking a risk any time you buy drugs off the streets.
"You don't know what it's been laced with," Fowler said. "The fentanyl and different things they're being laced with, you may be taking a drug that someone has put something on that shouldn't be there."
For now, Fowler said he wants officials and first responders to keep doing what they're doing.
"We have different individuals going out and doing presentations on the opiates and fentanyl, so I think that's helping a whole lot," said Fowler.
Fowler said he does want individuals to understand, though, that they can make a difference as well, to help keep the opioid epidemic from taking more lives in Southwest Georgia.
"If they know their loved one or friends are on drugs, try to get them help," said Fowler. "They need to get with someone, or talk to someone and get some help and some counseling to come off that drug."
Fowler said he plans to continue doing programs with Dougherty County students once school starts back in August.