Former heroin user to addicts: 'If I can do it, anybody can'

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It's a problem that's getting so big the Memphis Police Department Organized Crime Unit is investigating it specifically - the heroin epidemic.

Since 2013 Memphis police said more than 230 people have died due to heroin overdoses and several hundred more were arrested because of the drug.

But for one former user, she said her arrest is what saved her life.

Jessica Milligan has been sober for the past nine months after she was arrested last year with heroin in her possession.

"I was arrested on my 30th birthday in July of 2016," Milligan said. "And I detoxed in jail. I got out and I was waiting to go to court."

She said her addiction was deeper than a desire to get high. It started after her father committed suicide.

"He was a self-made millionaire and he owned a restaurant in Mississippi and when he killed himself that was the end of it for me and I didn't care anymore," she said. "And that's when I started using needles and actual heroine- not just Lortabs."

Milligan said she went to rehab three times but it didn't work. It was jail time and orders from drug court that made the difference.

"I owe it to drug court really and Karat Place. They gave me the structure and the discipline and the accountability and stuff," she said.

The heroin arrests for Memphis Police Department have steadily climbed:

  • In 2013- 230 people arrested
  • In 2014- 257 people arrested
  • In 2015- 520 people arrested
  • In 2016- 581 people arrested

By May 10 of 2017, there were 160 behind bars because of heroin.

In addition to the number of arrests increasing, the number of deaths has more than doubled:

  • In 2013- 24 people died from a heroin overdose
  • In 2014- 33 people died from a heroin overdose
  • In 2015- 27 died from an overdose
  • In 2016- 101 died from an overdose

A total of 49 people have died from an overdose since the start of this year.

Milligan hopes her story sends a message to other people still struggling with addictions.

"I was the worst of the worst. Everybody who knows me will tell you that and I've survived it and I'm very proud of that," she said. "And if I can do it, anybody can."

The heroin epidemic is so powerful in Memphis that TIME Magazine has reached to MPD for a story on it.

Police confirmed the article will not be released until later this year.

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