BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Susan Brawley said by all accounts her 23-year-old son Aaron had lived a normal life, but soon after starting college she noticed changes in him that eventually ended in his death.
"I never ever would have suspected that my child would grow up injecting drugs and using heroin," said Brawley
Aaron would go on to overdose twice, the second time he didn't make it. It was June 23, 2003 when Brawley found her son slumped over the tub, unresponsive.
"I did CPR on him. He had been down too long and I couldn't save him. Ever since then I've taken on this mission because you are very much aware this problem has gotten so huge," Brawley said. "We're talking 13 and a half years ago that my son died, and we're still dealing with it and on a grander scale. It just amazes me."
The CDC reports that in 2015 drug overdoses accounted for 52,404 deaths in the U.S. Heroin deaths rose by 23 percent, slightly higher than gun homicides.
"We hear that all the time someone's been shot, but now there's more people dying of heroin than gun violence. I think it's way out of control," she continued.
Brawley said part of the problem is the community doesn't know how to treat addiction.
"When you have someone come in the emergency room with chest pain, we have a plan in place, we know exactly what to do. But when someone comes in with an overdose, no one really knows what to do. It's basically don't do this again," she said.
She said the only way to fight the problem is through spreading awareness and dedicating more resources to fighting addiction.
"There's got to be more resources available. There's no counseling. There's no treatment, if you don't have money and you don't have excellent insurance and I mean excellent insurance, then there's very few resources available for treatment," she said.
Until those resources are available for everyone, she continues to share her son's story in hopes of saving another family from this heartache.
"Don't think like I did, that you can just love them out of it," she said.
Brawley said another issue that's an obstacle to stopping these overdose deaths is that drug addiction is still viewed as and treated as a moral problem, and not a disease.