Mother shares heartbreaking loss of son to help others fight heroin’s pull on families

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MADISON, Ala. - Heroin is making its way into more homes in Madison County. One mother, Kasey Long, is still grieving for her son who died of an overdose in Madison nearly one year ago. She lives in Jacksonville, North Carolina but her son was living here at the time of his death. Long does not want other parents to know her pain.

"My son was a great kid," Long said.

A 2013 East Limestone High School graduate, her son Colton Barnett's future went up in smoke.

"Forty dollars, my son lost his life for $40, to someone that he considered his friend," Long said of the drug deal she said ultimately lead to his death.

Long found out about Colton's heroin addiction in December 2015. He went to rehab in January and stayed through February.

"Six weeks worth, which is not enough," Long said of her son's stay in rehab. "Six weeks time you can't break the habit of chewing with your mouth open, much less a heroin addiction."

Once he left rehab, the temptations strengthened. Colton's drug addiction ultimately ended on March 17, 2016.

"The devastation of this, of the family that's left behind, I mean it changes your life forever," Long said.

Madison County Chief Deputy Coroner Tyler Berryhill knows the devastation drugs cause.

"In Madison County, Alabama, somebody loses their life every six days as a result of a drug overdose," Berryhill said.

Berryhill said after the additional 25 to 30 pending cases close, that number could rise to one person every five days.

"It's definitely a big problem and about half of those deaths are from heroin or heroin-related," Berryhill explained.

Parents, you can serve as the start of the solution.

"The biggest thing that we always tell families is to talk with your kids, be involved," Berryhill said.

Just like Colton's case, temporary vices can lead to permanent heartbreak, and heroin is not worth that.

"It devastates your whole family. I mean, you're just never the same," Long said.

Coroner Tyler Berryhill also explained the physiological impact of heroin on a person's brain. Once it binds to a certain part of the brain, it can control vital functions like heart rate and respiratory rate. This can lead to respiratory arrest, which can end in death.

Do you suspect a child or other family member is using drugs? Partnership for Drug-Free Kids outlines the steps you should take. Visit drugfree.org to learn more, and watch videos about how to handle conversations with your loved one. You can also call the help line: 1-855-DRUGFREE.