Heroin overdoses on the rise, Winston-Salem family speaks out after son’s death

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. – High Point police reported four overdoses in just the last 24 hours in the city.

Numbers released Friday show overdoses spiked in May, decreased a bit in June and July, but are starting to increase again in August.

According to the police statistics, there were 90 total heroin overdoses in High Point since March. Ten people died from heroin in that same time period.

72% of the overdoses involved white males. 41 of the 91 overdoses happened at residences. Parking lots and roads or streets were the next most common locations reported.

Officers and EMS officials first publicly reported their concerns earlier this year. They believe a particularly lethal batch of heroin laced with other substances is being sold in High Point and is contributing to the higher number of overdoses.

A Winston-Salem family says their son bought heroin in High Point. After Donna and Lee Simpson tried to help their son overcome his addiction for the last year, Dustin Simpson relapsed and overdosed two months ago.

The 24-year-old died, leaving behind his loving parents, brother, sister and a host of friends and family members who are trying to understand why he couldn't stop using the drug.

"Honestly, Dustin said that it was a demon, and he never realized how much it would mess him up," said Donna Simpson, Dustin's mother. "It's going to take your life whether it kills you or not. It will take your life. You will have no joy in your life because all you will think about is struggling to stay away from it or giving in to it and feeling guilty."

She said Dustin was first prescribed pain pills in high school after breaking his collar bone. Donna and her husband Lee didn't realize for years that Dustin was addicted to the high feeling those pills gave him.

"That eventually led to heroin when he couldn't get the pain pills," she explained. "We suspected there might be some issues but for the most part we thought everything was fine."

About a year ago, they realized everything was not fine with Dustin. "I kept saying- I can't believe we are dealing with heroin! This is not our family. This is not my son."

Dustin was not just an addict. He went to college and was working on his pilot's license. He also loved the Carolina Panthers and asked for a jersey last year for Christmas. It was an expensive gift, but his mother could not resist. He'd been recovering in and out of rehab and counseling for months.

"Of course I bought it for him anyway. And he was so excited when he opened it- he was like, 'Oh my gosh! You actually bought this.' And this year- when the Panthers start playing again, I won't see him wear that jersey," she said with tears in her eyes. "I'll never get rid of it. But it's really hard every day. We're gonna miss him for the rest of our lives."

Dustin's father Lee Simpson added, "You don't know what it's been cut with, mixed with. Unfortunately this is what we're battling right now in the community. I'm hoping that we can get a hold on this and get something done to stomp it out."

The Simpsons personally know seven other people who died from heroin usage in the last year.

"I think in his mind he thought, 'I can just do it one more time. It'll be okay.' But that one more time could take your life," Donna warned.

They hope sharing their son's story could help other families plan an intervention if a loved one has an addiction. Donna and Lee both warn young people never to try heroin even once.