Jeffrey Moore was the all American boy, until one day a parent’s worst nightmare happened.
“He grew up through a number of churches, played on all the teams that one would play on,” said James Moore, Jeffrey's father. “So if you would have thought then this child died of a heroin overdose, it would just not have been something that you would have thought possible.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of heroin overdose deaths has quadrupled. Between 2002 and 2013, there were 8,200 deaths.
While in junior high, Jeffrey began having emotional problems and trouble in school.
Over a span of 10 years, he dabbled in prescription drugs, marijuana and eventually heroin. Heroin ultimately took his life on April 6, 2015. He was only 24 years old.
“When he came to us a year ago, August, and first told us that he had a serious addiction to opioids, and needed help, I was surprised at the availability of heroin and at the low cost,” Moore said.
Jeffrey entered a 90-day residential rehab program, but was released 30 days early after violating the programs tobacco policy for a fourth time.
Just one week after his release, Jeffrey’s father loaned him $10 dollars for gas. Later that day, Moore found Jeffrey dead in his apartment.
“That was the morning he died,” Moore said. “When we picked up his clothes in the emergency room after his death, he still had a 5 dollar bill in his pocket. He was able to buy a lethal dose of heroin for 5 dollars in Hattiesburg.”
Not long after Jeffrey’s death, Moore watched a TV show where the drug Nalaxone, often called Narcan, was used to revive an opioid overdose victim.
“I was very frustrated to know that our son had been discharged from a local medical facility with heroin as his reason for going into the facility,” Moore said.“As parents and caregivers we were not advised that this was something that could have been had. That had been given in time even by us or by another friend, had there been someone at the house could have saved him.”
Narcan is a medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose. If used quickly, the drug can provide extra time for caregivers to call 911 and carry out rescue breathing and first aid until emergency medical help is available.
“The use of Narcan is basically harm prevention,” Psychiatrist and Addictionologist Diane Walker said. “You know if one provides the Narcan the form of Naloxone that can be used to block. You can save them from dying. I firmly believe that it’s something that can be very beneficial."
According to the CDC, since the 1990s community based programs have offered opioid prevention services and more recently information on how to use Narcan.
CVS sells Narcan without a prescription in 14 states. This includes the state of Mississippi, but information on how to use the drug is not widely available.
“You can read on the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) website, but there’s not a center in Mississippi at this time,” Walker said.
Moore is now on a mission to bring attention to the antidote and in the hands of first responders in the Pine Belt in hopes to prevent other families from suffering a similar tragedy.
He has accumulated articles on Narcan for the city council to look at.
“I presented those to Mayor DuPree and to the leadership at our police department, and the Mayor has indicated that during a retreat in the coming weeks that this is something that they’ll be taking a look at,” Moore said.
Although Moore is making progress with his cause, he remains more motivated than ever to see it through.
“Every day is a new day, every day is a second change in life that they can start the road to sobriety,” Moore said. “As a parent, right now every day I wake up without a son there is no recovery to that situation.”
As Moore grieves, so does Jeffrey’s sister, Jenny Moore.
“If I could say something to him now I would hug him and tell him that I love him and I’m proud of him and I’m sorry I was stubborn,” she said.
She said a year from when her brother started getting help, there was a lot of bad judgment.
“A year ago, if I heard the word drug addict or heroine I would have a vision immediately come to mind of New York dark alley, a homeless person drinking out of a paper bag, living under cardboard just really dirty,” Jenny Moore said. “I would have never expected a 24-year-old who’s holding down a job, just graduated from community college that is well known in the community to have an addiction such as that.”
The Moore family hopes that their story will reduce the stigma of addiction, and help those struggling with disease.
“I did not always believe this, but addiction is a disease it’s not a moral failing,” Moore said.
Moore is currently in the process of planning an event that will take place in April in memory of Jeffrey.
The event will remember those who have been lost to addiction, and honor those who are currently undergoing recovery.
To further spread their message, the family has invested in billboards that will be around the city with a picture of Jeffrey and his father that read “Addiction is a Disease not a Moral Failing. Seek Help”
The first billboard can be seen off Highway 98 in West Hattiesburg.