ABC11's town hall on 'Addiction: Hidden in plain sight'

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Thursday, May 18, 2017
ABC11 hosted town hall on opioid addiction
ABC11 hosted a town hall on opioid addiction Wednesday evening.

Heroin addiction... addiction to Opioids...

More and more, we hear about it. More and more, it's touching, and ruining, lives. What are the warning signs? What can we do? Are there solutions to this rapidly growing problem?

ABC11 Eyewitness News explored and discusses these tough questions during a special Town Hall, Addiction: Hidden in Plain Sight on Wednesday night.


ABC11 Town Hall

Our panel included North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and addiction experts from Healing Transitions and TROSA.

Jeannie Mercer, a grandmother from Holly Springs, arrived still grieving the sudden death of her grandson last January.

"Why? Just why? Mercer asked. "I just don't understand it."

RELATED: Can you spot the drug signs in a teen's bedroom?

Her grandson, 21-year old Keenan Cozzollino was a talented musician, a father of a 1-year-old baby girl - and a heroin addict.

His family had no idea.

"We didn't know he did any drugs, and we don't feel like he was an addict," Mercer said. "Just don't have any answers, and I was hoping that maybe coming here, I could find some answers."

And so Mercer joined in on the discussion at the Arts Center.

MORE: What to do when you think a loved one is using heroin

Facing an opioid epidemic killing four people across the state each day, the panel of parents, doctors, recovering addicts, and law enforcement endorsed a holistic approach to solving a problem that in many cases begins with prescription pain killers.

"On the prevention side, we need to be smarter prescribing, so we have fewer people becoming addicted," Stein said.

There were also stories of triumph.

The audience cheered for Jesse Bennett, a member of the panel, as he shared how he overcame a 20-year battle with heroin. Now he is a father, husband, and he's studying for a college degree.

RELATED: Raleigh man relates arduous battle with heroin addiction

Mercer couldn't help but shed tears listening to it all.

She left more informed about the addiction that killed her grandson, but still mourning.

"Because our whole family is affected, and we're having a tough time," she said.