Addiction Prevention Coalition News

Sandor Cheka wants every parent to be concerned about drugs on campus at schools.

Cheka's organization works with students to learn about drug culture at schools and to develop anti-drug messages.

“Often times, what we hear about is someone starting with prescription drugs," Cheka said.

Prescription opiate drugs are in the same family as heroin and they produce the same high.

"What we're seeing is kids starting because they think it is a safe high," Cheka said.

He says it's not safe. People can and do die from opiate overdose. 

Last year, the coroner's office says 74 people died in Jefferson County from prescription opioid overdoses. That's the highest overdose rate for that drug in the past 10 years.

Cheka says what can develop from teenage prescription opiate abuse is scary – addiction.

"And eventually they get to the point where they can't go to the doctor and get them or they can't get them from friends and family, so they turn to heroin." Cheka said.

"When I started sitting on the bench  seven years ago, I would see a few heroin cases here or there, so much so that I would say "oh, my god, it's heroin." Now 95 percent of the cases I see are heroin cases where I'm seeing young people addicted to heroin," Judge Shanta Owens added.

In 2015, there were 97 deaths from heroin in Jefferson County.

"If you suspect your child, especially if they are under the age of 18, has a problem, act on it," Cheka said.

Copyright 2016 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Read More »
Comments (0)       

Statistics show over 65$ of children who abuse prescriptions drugs get them for the first time from a family member or friend's medicine cabinet. A former drug addicts says that's why drug take back events are so important to help get prescription drugs out of the house.

Danny Molloy says a lot of times children go into the medicine cabinets looking for drugs because they are curious. He says a lot of music and moves glorify drug use.

Law enforcement agencies across the nation are holding drug take back events Saturday April 30th. You can drop off prescription drugs no questions asked.

Molloy says the take back events will help stop children from getting their hands on prescription drugs that first time and could prevent years of addiction. "I took oxycontin for about six years straight every day which ultimately led to a heroin addiction, I've been to 20 rehabs and five psychiatric units and I've also been arrested and gone to jail," said Molloy.

All of the drug take back events are Saturday from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Several places in Central Alabama are hosting events. To find the closest one to you visit the DEA's website.

Read More »
Comments (0)       

Heroin deaths in the Birmingham area are an all too common problem.

One organization says heroin addiction begins with prescription drug abuse and something needs to be done to control the number of prescriptions written for painkillers.

According to the CDC, Alabama is one southern state that has had the most prescriptions for painkillers.

The Addiction Prevention Coalition says that's a dangerous and deadly problem.

"Prescription drugs and opiates have paved the way for the heroin problem," said Danny Molloy with the Addiction Prevention Coalition.

It's something Molloy knows all too well. He's a former heroin addict whose problem began with abusing prescription painkillers.

"I realized heroin was cheaper and that I could get it anywhere,” said Molloy. “I did heroin for about 5 years."

After a lot of rehab, he's been clean for seven years and is now with the Addiction Prevention Coalition in Birmingham, which educates teens about drug abuse and provides resources for addicts who want to get help.

Molloy says preventing heroin deaths starts in doctor's offices.

"I feel like doctors need more accountability as to what they’re doing,” said Molloy. “Nobody is above the law and we have an opioid epidemic right now."

According to the CDC, Alabama is one of the states leading the nation in prescribing painkillers.

Molloy says it's time for the state to take a serious look at a mandatory Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which are state-run databases that track prescriptions to prevent over-prescribing.

"Without a monitoring program, it's really hard to detect what doctors are writing what prescriptions,” said Molloy. “There is a difference between use and abuse. Using medication in the proper way, obviously, that's what medication is for but it can slip into addiction."

The Addiction Prevention Coalition goes into area high schools and talks to students about the dangers of drug abuse and addiction, which is how he knows teenagers are battling those things.

"We need to get in front of this thing because now it's a heroin epidemic because everyone is moving from painkillers to heroin,” said Molloy. “Now we’ve got people younger and younger dying. We're seeing it in almost all the high schools that we have our program in. Seventeen high schools and we've met somebody who either does heroin or knows someone who does heroin in the high school."

Read More »
Comments (0)       

Some health experts across the country are pushing for stricter guidelines when it comes to treating pain in clinics and hospitals.

They sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In it, they said the current standards are contributing to an overuse of addictive pain medicines.

We found doctors here who agree.

Dr. Mark Wilson with the Jefferson County Health Department tells ABC 33/40, prescription pain addiction here is at a "crisis" level. He says re-evaluating these guidelines is only part of the picture. Wilson adds, there has to be a middle ground where we still treat pain adequately, while remaining aware of the risks of addiction.

Those risks are well known by 32-year-old Jonathan Jones.

Jones is a resident at The Foundry in Bessemer. He is a recovering addict. It started when he was prescribed medication for his back pain.

"Once you get started, and get that feeling, it's easy to get hooked on," said Jones. "Everybody is going to have some kind of pain they're going to deal with. Most people think pain meds are the only way. I think it should be a little stricter in how you get it."

Currently, hospitals are required to give surveys to patients asking them to rate their pain. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid rate hospitals by those surveys.

Now, health officials are asking to drop the survey.

Sandor Cheka with the Addiction Prevention Coalition says he is not surprise some medical professionals are stepping up and speaking out.

"You see it across the country. People are really trying to figure out how do we stop this massive opiate epidemic?" said Cheka. "Are we giving them drugs for valid things? Or are we just trying to comfort those who are in a little bit of pain?

Jonathan Jones has this message for those struggling with addiction. "You're not alone. Don't think you're the only one who has to go through these issues."

Dr. Wilson says it will take a lot of resources to get this epidemic under control.

He wants the community to help by getting rid of leftover pain medicines, or keeping them locked up

Read More »
Comments (0)       

Here locally, several organizations work to battle the heroin addiction epidemic.

The Addiction Prevention Coalition works to prevent substance abuse with drug prevention programs -- and connecting people to recovery resources.

They encourage anyone who has a loved one struggling with addiction to take the steps necessary to get help.

For more information to get help for an addiction, you can contact (205) 874-8498. Or you can visit their website here

Read More »
Comments (0)       
In the lead up to February’s New Hampshire presidential primaries, candidates Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina shared their stories of family members who struggled with heroin addiction and died of overdose. 

The discussion brought to light stories of ruined lives, broken families and overdose deaths that are multiplying at alarming rates throughout the U.S. For many Americans who still think of heroin as an urban inner city drug, the discussion might have come as a surprise. However, Alabama law enforcement and drug addiction specialists confirm that the increasing use of heroin in the state is a major concern.

At a 2015 conference at Shades Crest Baptist Church, Bluff Park, Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector called heroin “an epidemic,” not just in the Birmingham area but also in the state and nation. A study released by Auburn Montgomery Outreach in 2015 noted that since the year 2000, the Interstate 20/59 corridor has become a primary route for drug trafficking and Birmingham’s central location along the route has made it a hub for dealers seeking to get their drugs into larger cities.

Increased availability

The results of this increased availability of heroin have been alarming. Researchers found that in 2012, the number of heroin-related deaths in Jefferson County doubled and doubled again in 2014 to 137. Though that number may seem small in comparison to the overall population, the rapid rise in overdose deaths mirrors national statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths in the U.S. nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2014. In 2014 overdoses from heroin, prescription drugs and opioid pain medications surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in America, according to the CDC — the highest level of the 21st century. That year, there were 10,574 heroin-related overdose deaths and 18,893 deaths related to prescription pain relievers.

As the upward trends in heroin use and overdose continue, experts point to one leading cause — a dramatic increase in the number of prescriptions written for opiate painkillers during the past 15 years. 

These powerful pain medications are familiar by their brand names — Vicodin, Lortab, OxyContin and Percocet — as well as by their generic names — hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine. Throughout the nation health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. Alabama tops the list of states for opioid prescriptions. According to 2012 CDC data, Alabama doctors wrote 143 prescriptions for every 100 people in the state.

For some, the pills are necessary to relieve the chronic pain of injury or to control pain after medical procedures. For others, the temporary relief becomes an addiction that leads to more doctor visits, more prescriptions and more desperation. When the prescriptions are no longer available or become too expensive, prescription drug abusers turn to heroin, which is cheaper and more easily available. A study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that 4 in 5 new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers, making them 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin, according to the CDC. 

Because of the need for such drugs in medical care, the problem of opiate drug abuse is a challenging problem to address, according to J. Sándor Cheka III, executive director of the Addiction Prevention Coalition in Birmingham. 

Many people have legitimate chronic pain and need medication for treatment, Cheka said. The problem begins when an individual becomes dependent on the medication for more than pain.

“Opiates are depressants, so they provide an escape. It’s much like alcohol but for some folks much more addictive,” he said.

Often the drugs prescribed for pain provide an escape from other parts of life that are unpleasant as well, which feeds the addiction, Cheka said.

Take the story of a promising high school athlete who is headed for a college career when an injury strikes. Not only does the young person have the physical pain of the injury, he has the emotional pain of losing the life he envisioned. Pain medicine relieves the physical pain and allows an escape from the emotional pain. However, once the injury is healed the emotional pain doesn’t go away. If the prescription is unavailable, the person will turn to whatever will provide that escape.

Turning to the street increases the risks of overdose, in part because of the purity of today’s heroin, Cheka said. Many heroin dealers are former cocaine dealers and are using the same methods to prepare heroin. Cheka said it’s not unusual to have purity levels of heroin as high as 98 percent, a deadly dose even for a drug addict.

“Something that high, you’re not going to survive. Even if you have a tolerance level, you can’t withstand 98 percent pure,” he said.

Another disturbing trend across the country is the rise of heroin laced with fentanyl, a prescription opiate used generally for people in hospice. Fentanyl generally is kept under careful controls and given only in extreme circumstances, Cheka said. Fentanyl’s potency means that even a small amount can cause an overdose, making it incredibly dangerous on the streets.

Alabama law enforcement officials are working in conjunction with federal officials to combat the spread of heroin in the state, according to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. The state is part of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency task force focused on shutting down drug distribution networks in Alabama.  

Legislation, education is key

In September 2015, Strange’s office dedicated the annual statewide law enforcement summit to drug abuse education and prevention. 

“Nearly 700 state law enforcement officers ... attended the conference to learn the latest drug abuse trends and how to fight this growing threat to our communities,” Strange said. “Officers received briefings on heroin and other illegal drugs and learned how state and federal agents are dealing with the drug epidemic.”

Strange also said he supports the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, national legislation that would increase funding for drug prevention, treatment and recovery programs. The legislation includes plans to combat prescription drug addiction and improve medical provider education about managing chronic pain. Another part of the bill is expanded access to naloxone, a medication that counteracts overdoses of heroin and other opioids. 

Naloxone, which is sold under several brand names including Narcan and Evzio, is used by first responders and hospitals to reverse overdoses of heroin or other opioids, but many in the addiction and prevention community argue that the life-saving medication should be more easily available to addicts and their family members, since administering naloxone can prevent death by overdose.

On Feb. 9, Walgreens announced its stores would begin selling naloxone over the counter in 39 states, including Alabama. Such steps geared toward prevention are important, Strange said.

“Drug abuse, including heroin, represents a serious problem and law enforcement cannot address it alone. That is why I continue to support efforts to increase community awareness and involvement in preventing and treating drug addiction.”

Signs of heroin use

Burnt spoons
Tiny baggies
Tan or whitish powdery residue
Dark, sticky residue
Small glass pipes
Rubber tubing
Tiny pupils
Sleepy eyes
Tendency to nod off
Slow breathing
Flushed skin
Runny nose
Slurred speech
Complaints of constipation
Complaints of nausea
Neglect of grooming
Failure to eat
Covering arms with long sleeves

- See more at:

Read More »
Comments (0)       
As more and more heroin addicts attribute the start of their addiction to legal prescriptions, Christian recovery specialists say parents must take a greater role not only in encouraging their children to avoid drugs but also to address the heart issues that often lead young people to drugs in the first place.

The availability of heroin and other street drugs continues to be a focus of law enforcement in Alabama and the United States. However, the availability of prescription opioid medications is an equally important issue, said J. Sándor Cheka III, executive director of the Addiction Prevention Coalition in Birmingham.

“Sixty-four percent of our kids are getting their opiates from a friend or family member,” he said. “The question we have to ask is why are so many opiates accessible like that?” 

Read More »
Comments (0)       

ABC 33/40 has learned that naloxone will soon be available over the counter in Alabama at Walgreens pharmacies.

Tinamarie Smith's son struggled with heroin addiction, and is now in recovery. She's in favor of Walgreens carrying naloxone. "Over those past two years, it was the darkest days," Smith said. "I think it would just be one other step that a family member or friend could do to intervene until help did arrive." Smith questions if it is a good idea to make the "heroin antidote" so readily available. "Like anything, people are going to find the bad in it. They're going to use it as a crutch. But hopefully for that one life, maybe it was someone who it was their first time (using), or for someone who really does want to change," she says.

Shandor Cheka with the Addiction Prevention Coalition doesn't believe it's enabling. "Most of the families know what's going on with their child," he said. "They're trying to get them to stop. Maybe it's a spouse, they're trying to get them to stop using. But there are relapses involved, even with people who find recovery." Training will be offered at Walgreens, by pharmacists. Instructions are provided in the packaging. In addition, Walgreens will install medication disposal kiosks to address the problem of prescription drug abuse.

ABC 33/40 also learned nalaxone is covered by most insurance. If not, a single dose will cost $78. Walgreens has not said yet when this program will roll out in Alabama.

Read More »
Comments (0)       

A new twist tonight in the fight against heroin in our communities.

Law enforcement officers warn, the drug is now being disguised as prescription pain pills like Oxycontin or Percocet.

Someone taking these pills might not know what it is, before it is too late.

Right now, we know these pills are in Kentucky, Indiana and Florida. The Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force believes it is only a matter of time before these pills find their way here.

Read More »
Comments (0)       

The Addiction Prevention Coalition is encouraging community members to “wake up” about the realities of addiction.

APC hosted a breakfast on Jan. 13 to discuss the growing problem of heroin addiction and overdose in Jefferson County and nationwide. At the breakfast, held at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, APC Executive Director Sandor Cheka discussed their goals for the community.

Cheka said APC talks with students to ensure discussions on drug use or addiction fit their experience, rather than using a one-size-fits-all federal curriculum.

“What happens at Spain Park, what happens at Hoover and Vestavia and Mountain Brook are very different from each other because they all have their own cultures internally,” Cheka said. “They all have their own things they do differently. They all have their own drugs of choice.”

During the program, four recovering addicts spoke. Danny Molloy, APC program support specialist, spoke to the crowd about opening up to conversations on addiction. He said one step is to recognize the problem facing schools and students and to recognize that deaths from opiate overdoses have risen dramatically.

“We’re at the schools talking to kids about what’s going on, which is eye-opening to me,” Molloy said. “We get these phone calls where we change people’s voices, we get the phone calls from kids who are spilling the beans about the drug culture in the school, and you think it’s out of a movie.”

Read More »
Comments (0)       

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Addiction Prevention Coalition says drug use is of epic proportions in communities across Alabama. Leaders in the Coalition say addiction flourishes in darkness, and that is why they want to bring the epidemic to light.

Early Wednesday morning, dozens of parents, educators and social workers from the Spain Park area attended the first of the four 2016 panel discussions. The breakfast was held at Saint Marks Evangelist Catholic Church.

Dalton Smith and Drew Callner are both young recovering addicts who shared their stories.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. I was IV heroin, that was my thing,” said Smith.

Read More »
Comments (0)       

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Foundry Ministries and The Addiction Prevention Coalition partnered in prayer with the community to kick off Red Ribbon Week in Bessemer.

Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley said they are appreciative of the Foundry for helping to raise awareness about substance abuse with the event on Thursday.

Residents of the Foundry and their guests were among the many wearing red shirts or ribbons outside the Foundry Worship Center.  They released red balloons just before a prayer and worship service.

Sandor Cheka with the Addiction Prevention Coalition said this partnership is “a great opportunity with the Foundry to acknowledge the fact that prevention is not just about kids, its about the entire community coming together and dealing with this from a recovery stand point, but also on the front end as well.”

Red Ribbon Week is Friday October 23rd-31st. Here’s a link so you sign the pledge to be drug free.

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

Read More »
Comments (0)       

Community members discussed steps toward fighting substance abuse during a Whatever It Takes forum.

The forum took place at Shades Crest Baptist Church on Monday, Sept. 28 as a way to work toward a plan against drug addiction.

Sandor Cheka, executive director of the Addiction Prevention Coalition, started the conversation by discussing some of addiction’s underlying causes. One issue behind addiction, Cheka said, is the “conspiracy of silence.” This problem stems from a desire to hide the bad in life and to avoid conversations about addiction.

“It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do, we don’t like to share our problems,” Cheka said. “We like to put on this façade of ‘everything’s perfect.’”

Avoiding these important conversations because of guilt and shame can lead to more damage and continued addiction, Cheka said. Parents also face these feelings and sometimes won’t reach out for help or ask about resources for their children.

Read More »
Comments (0)       
Comments (0)       
WBHM-FM Radio 90.3 interview "Recovering Addict Brad Blount on a  Dark Time, and How He Escaped It."  by Dan Carsen
INTERVIEW: Recovering Addict Brad Blount On A Dark Time, And How He Escaped It

 By: WBHM-FM 90.3's Dan Carsen

 Brad Blount, 24, in his house in Vestavia Hills.
 Photo by Dan Carsen.

 90.3 WBHM Vestavia Hills-- Heroin use is on the rise in Alabama. In Jefferson County alone, reported overdose deaths doubled between 2013 and 2014. And contrary to old stereotypes, the drug doesn't respect race, class, or neighborhood boundaries. Brad Blount of Vestavia Hills is proof. He's from a solid family in that well-heeled suburb, but in this first part of WBHM's coverage of the issue, the 24-year-old tells reporter Dan Carsen that despite his advantages, his life took a dark turn:

Read More »
Comments (0)       
"Waking Up about Addiction"
FEBRUARY 10, 2015
By: Emily Williams

"Brad Blount and Suzie Sarcone shared stories and provided parents with tools to best approach their own children about drugs and alcohol."

 “I was on the right track, or what seemed like the right track, to doing everything you would want to do in life and everything that parents would ever want from their kid,” said Brad Blount, his image playing on a large screen in the crowded ballroom of Vestavia Country Club. A room packed with people remained silent as Blount said, “But I ended up becoming a heroin addict.” An organization whose vision is to prevent substance abuse in central Alabama, the Addiction Prevention Coalition strives for its goal by pushing for community collaboration.
One way the group spreads its message is through events like the “Wake Up!” breakfast, where recovering addicts like Blount share stories and provide parents with the tools to best approach their own children about drugs and alcohol. The breakfast featured Blount and another young adult whose stories of addiction hit close to home. Each grew up in an affluent community attending highly-rated schools. But as APC spokesman Danny Malloy said, “There is no one-size-fits-all for addiction.” Suzie Sarcone, a 17-year-old student at Mountain Brook High School, and Blount, a graduate of Vestavia Hills High School, have led lives deeply affected by substance abuse. “I wasn’t drinking because I liked it, I was drinking to get drunk,” Sarcone said. Sarcone said she grew up in a family environment where addictive behavior was prevalent and found that alcohol and drug abuse helped her to forget about her difficult home life. Blount’s opiate abuse began after a football injury to his shoulder, he said. He was prescribed Lortab – and later, Oxycodone – for his shoulder and quickly became dependent on the drug without realizing it. Once the pills ran out, his search for a quicker and cheaper fix led him to heroin, he said. Both Sarcone and Blount offered knowledge that parents might not otherwise be able to obtain. Each talked about what methods were most effective — and ineffective — on their journeys to recovery. Blount and Sarcone agreed that the greatest indicators of substance abuse are not physical symptoms. With eye drops and an extra layer of clothing, Blount said, he easily disguised his physical symptoms from his parents. “I was always gone,” Sarcone said. “I was never home, and I would lie about where I was.” She would also constantly ask for money, giving any excuse imaginable to get it, she said. Once the problem is identified, Blount and Sarcone said a parent must take care in how they approach their child. “Parents are going to pass judgment unconsciously,” Blount said, adding that parents must be aware of their tone in order to have truthful conversations with their kids. The goal is to be as open as possible to any discussion, whether the topic is good or bad, said Sarcone. Both speakers said, whether or not a child abuses substances, engaging in non-threatening discussions about drugs will keep them better-informed. But when a punishment must be put in place, Sarcone said, a parent cannot waver. She said when it comes time to lay down hard rules, it is important for intentions to be clear. Phrases like “I didn’t raise you that way” are counterproductive, Blount said. “Be careful about shaming your kid. We know you didn’t ‘raise us that way,’” he said.
Both speakers said a parent should avoid extremes, such as forbidding a child from seeing certain people or going to certain places. “It’s like telling them not to eat the cookie,” Sarcone said. Adults must always remember what it is like to be a teenager, when every disappointment seems life-altering, said Blount. “It’s really important not to minimize their feelings,” Blount said. “Be aware of what they’re going through.” He said his parents came to terms with results of the injury long before Blount could himself, and it was that injury that eventually led to his addiction. Both Sarcone and Blount stressed that it is not always parents’ fault when a child becomes involved in addictive practices. Parents cannot make their children’s choices for them, but they can shape the way their child chooses to behave, they said. “My goal is to prevent other people from going through what me and my family experienced,” Sarcone said. During her recovery, Sarcone said, she and her mother have found a balance and have reached a state of open discussion. With the help of Sarcone and Blount, APC is opening drug-related discussions in a community-wide setting in order to promote similar discussions inside the home.
“The greatest challenge we face is getting the community to be open to discussing these issues,” said Steve Briggs, APC founder and board member.
For more information about the APC, visit

Read More »
Comments (0)       
"Curbing Heroin Deaths" 
By: Tom Gordon 


Birmingham Police Captain Allen Treadaway, who also serves in the state legislature, wants to put naloxone in the hands of those who might save heroin users from overdoses. 
Photo by Tom Gordon. 


Read More »
Comments (0)       
ABC 33/40 "Addiction Prevention Coalition talks to Vestavia Hills community" 

 Former Vestavia Hills High student-athlete shares his story of drug addiction.


Read More »
Comments (0)       

It all began with a prescription. Lortab: doctor's orders.

It was 2008, senior year. It would have been the last season Brad Blount dressed out in Vestavia Hills' red and blue and rushed onto the field under the Friday night lights.

Instead, a football injury sent Blount spiraling out of control.

When the diagnosis came in, it didn't look good. A torn rotator cuff and other complications meant Blount would have to sit out during every sport for the entirety of his senior year. No wrestling or football; definitely not baseball.

"I went through an identity crisis," Blount told a packed room at the Vestavia Country Club Thursday morning.

Without sports in his life, Blount said he didn't know what to do or where to turn. He'd dreamed of pitching in college, toeing a clean rubber on perfectly kept mounds, but even before the season began, all of that was cut short. He thought the void left by the lack of sports was the lowest he could feel--until the prescriptions, both the Lortab and then Oxycodone, ran dry.

"I felt low," he explained to the gathered audience at the Addiction Prevention Coalition's "Wake Up!" breakfast. "I became depressed when I was taken off of the medication. I didn't understand what I was feeling."

Other current and former over-the-mountain high school students joined Blount Thursday in sharing their own experiences with drugs and alcohol, including how they became addicted, what helped them to recover, and how and why every parent should talk openly to their kids to avoid the pitfalls of addiction.

In Blount's case, the dominos began to fall in his attempt to level out.

Driven by a desire to feel "normal" again, Blount began seeking out--no matter the price--the effects the prescription opiates had once given him. When it became too difficult to find another pill to pop, Blount turned down an even darker path.

"I ended up becoming a heroin addict," said Blount.

Blount said he lied to his parents, to anyone who ever came between him and his next high, and stole whenever he had a chance. At his lowest, Blount said he could not live through a solid four hours without taking another hit of heroin. It was a constant, everyday nagging, he said.

"There was a time when I believed I would never draw a sober breath again," he said.

And he isn't alone.

Authorities say more people are experimenting with heroin, more than ever with deadly consequences.

A sharp rise in heroin-related deaths across Jefferson County in 2014 left no one immune, according to the Jefferson County Coroner's Office, including Over the Mountain cities like Vestavia Hill.

Heroin deaths in Jefferson County jumped about 140 percent in 2014,'s Carol Robinson reported earlier this month. Homewood, Hoover and Vestavia Hills each reported seven confirmed heroin-related deaths in 2014.

In May 2012, and The Birmingham News first highlighted the growing problem in Jefferson County. In August, "Help the Hills" hosted its first meeting and featured speakers Dale Wisely, Ph.D., David Howard, and Rick Norris, a Vestavia parent whose son, Tripp, was a Vestavia Hills High School grad, a senior at The University of Alabama and an aspiring and talented musician. Tripp died in 2011as a result of a lethal mix of alcohol and street heroin.

On Jan. 5, the Vestavia Hills community once again did its part to ensure its children aren't part of another statistic.

The Vestavia Hills School Board, the Vestavia Hills Police Department, and the Jefferson County Drug Court host a second town hall, "Help the Hills" meeting focused on the "Truth and Consequences of Drug and Alcohol Use"

Availability, purity and the pursuit of a higher high are all to blame for the increase in deaths, experts have said.

Despite the staggering statistics against him, Blount survived.

Deep down, Blount said he knew he had everything a young man needed to become a successful adult: supportive parents, the luxuries of a good school and athletic talent.

"I couldn't ask for any better parents than what God gave me," said the fresh-faced Blount. "God put me in a place with a good family that gave me everything I ever could have wanted, all the support I could have ever needed."

It was that relentless support and love, he said, that helped him sober up.

Today, one-and-a-half years sober, Blount said he believes he must do what is needed in his community: to share his experiences and his long, continuing road to recovery so that other young men and young women might learn from his journey.

"If my story can save one kid's life," he said, "it's absolutely worth me sharing it."

He hopes his message might help others struggling gather some insight such that they and their parents can learn to spot the warning signs and seek help when it is needed.

He warns parents of becoming too comfortable with the thought that drugs could never affect their child.

"Many parents can fall into this mindset of believing what they want to believe," he said. "Don't risk the life of your child by letting things slide."

Open communication is key, said Blount, but it must remain level-headed and come from a place of love.

"Stay away from extreme dramatic statements," he said. Children can eventually figure it out that "pot won't make you immediately stupid."

Shaming, he said, is another no-no.

"Don't need to say things like 'I didn't raise you this way,'" he said. "They already know that you didn't raise them that way." 
Instead, he suggests, parents should watch for the signs: frequent, unexplained disappearances, a drop in grades and loss of interest in activities and sports.

"You can't alter a choice a child is going to make," said Blount, "but you can give them every opportunity to succeed."

According to its Mission Statement, the Addiction Prevention Coalition aims to "help prevent substance abuse by fostering community collaborations, facilitating student led drug prevention programs and expanding access to services."

Thursday, the Coalition presented its first "Community Impact Award" to the City of Vestavia Hills, in recognition of "their outstanding collaborative efforts to fight substance abuse within their area."

For more about the APC, and for information about how to get involved, click here.

Read More »
Comments (0)       

Read More »
Comments (0)       
ABC 3340 "Communities "Wake-Up" to threat of drug abuse"

Posted: Jan 29, 2015 5:45 PM CST Updated: Jan 29, 2015 7:23 PM CST

By: Cynthia Gould

click here to watch video:

It was a chance for parents to hear from the kids themselves about what works and what doesn't, when it comes to steering children away from the pit-falls of drug use. “I wasn't drinking as a social thing; I was drinking to get drunk,” explained Suzie Sarcone. Only after she got caught drunk at a football game did she get the help she needed. Now she works to make sure parents see the warning signs. [App users: Click here to watch the embedded video] Sarcone and Brad Blount were among those sharing their stories at a packed “Wake Up” breakfast in Vestavia where leaders work to make sure the problem is not swept under the rug. “I shouldn't be here today with the stuff I was doing, the lifestyle I was living,” explained Blount. He was a popular high school athlete when injury ended his playing time. The pain pills quickly lead to a $600 a week heroin addiction. “I had no faith, no care in the world. Everything revolved around when am I going to get that next fix.” The Addiction Prevention Coalition which hosted the event believes the best way to fight abuse is to train young people, send them back into the schools where they can lead conversations about the dangers of drugs. “The stuff I grew up with doesn't work: the coercion, the manipulation, the scare tactics,” says Carl Lynn with APC. He reminds parent to remember not to judge and condemn others when they make mistakes or it will make your child less likely to talk about their own. The students also warned parents not to give their kids too much cash and really keep tabs on where they are and who they're with. Even a locked liquor cabinet is not fool-proof. If your child is prescribed pain-killers, you should keep the bottle and only give them what they need each day. Vestavia and Homewood police departments have drop-boxes to get rid of old prescription medications.
Click here to watch the embedded video

Read More »
Comments (0)       

By Darcelle Hall

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WIAT) – Drug use is becoming a growing problems for students in area schools. While no parent wants to think about their child ever using or becoming addicted to illegal drugs, one area organization wants everyone to “Wake Up” and see what’s going in their community.

The coalition hosted its annual “Wake Up!” breakfast Thursday in Vestavia. During the event, the coalition presented its first-ever “Community Impact Award” to the City of Vestavia. the award was created to recognize those whose efforts aid in the fight against drugs. Vestavia Hills High and former graduate Brad Blount teamed up to create an anti-drug campaign, the first of its type for over-the-mountain schools.

Blount then took the opportunity to share his story of drug abuse, and how it eventually escalated to heroin use.

Click here for more information on the Addiction Prevention Coalition.



Read More »
Comments (0)       

By Sarah Snyder

A deadly drug is hitting epidemic proportions. Heroin is causing concerns throughout Central Alabama. You may think it doesn't affect you, but it does. It's taking firefighters and police officers off the streets - dealing with almost daily overdoses.
"Our runs on these types of incidents are higher than we've ever had," Rusty Lowe, Executive Officer, Hoover Fire Department said.

Hoover Fire and Rescue says an injection - called Narcan - reverses the effects of opiates like Heroin. Because of the re-surgence of Heroin it's in high demand and often hard to come by.  

"We keep a good stock of it because we know we will use it on a regular basis," Lowe said.

Once that high goes away, often patients become violent retaliating on the very ones who saved their lives.

"Usually people are grateful for what we do, but now that we know the patients can become violent, we prepare ourselves for it and know that's a possibility," Lowe said.

"The job they have to do is so difficult because with this new boom of Heroin, I've talked to firefighters who say they go on these calls every day, twice a day," Danny Molloy, a former Heroin addict said.

"In high school I started smoking marijuana, drinking, and it quickly escalated," Molloy told ABC 33/40. "It's literally like rolling the dice with your life. It's Russian Roulette. It's so dangerous and it's so available right now and it's become an epidemic really."

It was a group of  firefighters and paramedics -- who saved Danny Molloy's life.  

"I passed out and woke up in a full seizure, got the phone, dialed 911 and was convulsing," he said. "I woke up in the hospital. The first responders were still there and they were talking to me saying you need to stop doing drugs - you almost died. I honestly believe if I had not called 911 and had they not shown up that night, that I would probably be dead."

Molloy now works with the Addiction Prevention Coalition - helping young adults and high school students avoid the same mistakes he made.

"The reason it's so addictive is because it feels so good, but it feels good for a short period of time," Molloy said. "Eventually your body can't handle the amount of heroin you need to get high - that's where you see overdoses happen."

"It's happening in Hoover, Mountain Brook, Vestavia, it's happening everywhere," Lowe said. "Heroin sees no boundaries. It's been eye-opening for all of us but it's almost second nature to us now to respond to these situations."

Read More »
Comments (0)       

By Ana Rodriguez | 

Vestavia Hills High School graduate Brad Blount said he had everything a young man needed to become a successful adult: supportive parents, the luxuries of a good school and talent on the football field.

"I couldn't ask for any better parents than what God gave me," said the fresh-faced Blount in a recent video interview. "God put me in a place with a good family that gave me everything I ever could have wanted, all the support I could have ever needed."

From the outside, he said, it looked like everything was on a positive track.

Then something went terribly wrong.

"I ended up becoming a heroin addict," said Blount, as his blue eyes shifted away from the camera.

The video, available below, was filmed as a promotional piece for the upcoming Addiction Prevention Coalition's "Wake Up!" breakfast. 

It only shows part of the story, however.


Blount will share the rest Thursday, Jan. 29 from 8-9 a.m. during the breakfast at Vestavia Country Club, 400 Beaumont Drive.

Other current and former over-the-mountain high school students will join Blount in sharing their own experiences with drugs and alcohol, including how they became addicted, what helped them to recover, and how and why every parent should talk openly to their kids to avoid the pitfalls of addiction.

The Addiction Prevention Coalition will also present its first "Community Impact Award" to the City of Vestavia Hills, in recognition of "their outstanding collaborative efforts to fight substance abuse within their area," according to a news release about the event.

Read More »
Comments (0)       

By Tachana Johnson

Making sure Central Alabama children stay drug-free is the goal of one local organization. 

The Addiction Prevention Coalition will host a free wake up breakfast on January 29th beginning at 8 a.m. It will be held at the Vestavia Country Club on 400 Beaumont Drive in Birmingham. Organizers say local teenagers will teach the adults what to look for and how to talk with them about substance abuse.

To RSVP for the program, go to or call 205-874-8498.

Read More »
Comments (0)       
"Where Are Our Leaders?  Alethia House's Teens Who Care Program Grooms Youth for Service: by Edward T. Bowser for "Opinion,""
"Where Are Our Leaders? Alethia House's "Teens Who Care" Program Grooms Youth For Service: 

By :Edward T. Bowser | 
 (About the writer: Edward Bowser is a community engagement specialist for the Alabama Media Group. He can be reached at 

 "There's been a lot of talk about black leadership lately. 

 Distraught communities are looking for guidance as they cope with recent injustices and backlash, someone who can help them organize and serve as a symbol for their cause... 

Read More »
Comments (0)       

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — More than a hundred people have died from prescription drug overdoses in Jefferson County this year.  The problem is so bad that more people have overdosed or died because of prescription drugs in Jefferson County than have been killed in all the homicides in our entire viewing area combined.

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

Read More »
Comments (0)       
Comments (0)       
Comments (0)       

Jeffco. Addiction Prevention Coalition holds 'Wake up' breakfast in Birmingham

Source: WBRC videoSource: WBRC video


Addiction Prevention Coalition in Jefferson County is trying to get the word out about how prevalent drug abuse is in our communities.

They had a "wake up" breakfast Thursday morning at the Junior League of Birmingham auditorium. They had parents talk about how drugs have affected their family.

They also had students talk about what they're facing at school. Students told the group how easy it is to get their hands on drugs.

"All schools are different and depending on what drug it's going to be different but what we are hearing from our students is that they know multiple people they can go buy from. Traditionally it's been one person in that school they know they can go to buy drugs but really anybody can get it from anyone else in their schools," Sandor Cheka said

Sandor Cheka says right now there are 122-thousand people in central Alabama needing drug abuse treatment.

For more resources and information you can go to

Copyright 2014 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Read More »
Comments (0)       

"All In Mountain Brook" advocacy group promotes APC "Wake Up!" event on their website.

The Addiction Prevention Coalition is offering this important free program on November 6th. Click on the image below for the larger version.


Read More »
Comments (0)       

"Black Pearl"

Tonya Yates, pictured here with mother Tammy, has brighter days ahead and doesn’t define herself by her past drug use.

Tonya Yates, pictured here with mother Tammy, has brighter days ahead and doesn’t define herself by her past drug use.

In recent years, the entire country has seen a rise in heroin abuse, and Alabama is no exception.

Written by Tom Gordon


Heroin, be the death of me
Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life

-Lou Reed, “Heroin”


When he was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2006, Allen Treadaway’s top legislative priorities did not include giving more people the authority to administer a drug known as Naloxone to bring someone back from a possibly fatal overdose of heroin. But when the Legislature convenes next March, the Jefferson County Republican plans to push a bill that will do just that and for a very simple reason. “With what we’re seeing, the increase in the use of heroin, I think we’ve got to get this out there,” Treadaway says.

Read More »
Comments (0)       
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - There has been an increase in the last few years of heroin use, say several experts who were present at a panel in the Junior Le...

Read More »
Comments (0)       
Birmingham, AL., April 4, 2014 – A local organization is co-sponsoring a marijuana education forum in Montgomery this week to discuss outcomes...

Read More »
Comments (0)       
"We had a drug abuse problem in my family, too," said Sandor Cheka, executive director of the Addiction Prevention Coalition. "I saw first-hand what i...

Read More »
Comments (0)       
Birmingham, AL– The Addiction Prevention Coalition, a local agency focused on preventing youth drug abuse through peer-led programs in high schools, a...

Read More »
Comments (0)       
addiction coalition AWARDED $125,000 GRANT to PREVENT YOUTH SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN BIRMINGHAM   Agency Rebrands as Addiction Preve...

Read More »
Comments (0)       
The Addiction Prevention Coalition, a local agency dedicated to fighting drug abuse and providing treatment resources for area youth and adults, invit...

Read More »
Comments (0)       

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The Freedom Source is a relatively new nonprofit organization in Birmingham that provides hope and help to individuals and families trying to find solutions for drug and alcohol addiction.

The organization was born out of the frustrating search by one family to find drug and alcohol addiction service providers in the Birmingham metro area, according to its website. The Freedom Source became a reality in 2008 and to date has served more than 1,500 clients.

Sandor Cheka of Chelsea is the executive director. Cheka is a Samford University graduate and an ordained Baptist minister. In May 2010, he was invited to go to Washington, D.C., as part of a delegation from Birmingham to attend a conference put on by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration. Birmingham was one of 12 cities with people invited to participate in the conference. The focus of the gathering was to learn how community partnerships could be developed to help people be successful in recovering from alcohol or drug abuse.

Read More »
Comments (0)       
    Drug and alcohol prevention is a key area of focus at the Addiction Coalition.  We realize that in order to effectively prevent addiction and better our community, we must begin with children.  In the fall of 2010, we began a partnership with Cornerstone school in downtown Birmingham in an effort to provide the students with education and mentors that will encourage drug prevention.  This joint venture began by implementing drug prevention curriculum at Cornerstone designed specifically for students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.  Now that the curriculum is underway, we are happy to say that we have developed a mentoring program that will help further the students' knowledge of the curriculum, help each student set goals for themselves, and help prevent the likelihood of the students to use illegal substances.  
    Currently, we have seven students from Samford University committed to serving as mentors for these students at Cornerstone.  Each week, the mentors travel to Cornerstone, spend lunch time with a small group of students, and go over the week's lesson.  The program began on March 23, 2011 and has been a huge success so far.  We will strive to ensure this program's continued success and know that the mentors are truly making a difference in the students' lives!

Read More »
Comments (0)       
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America National Leadership Forum in Washington DC. It was an amazing experience to learn from folks all over the country. We had over 2700 people that work toward ridding their communities of substance abuse.

The Forum trains communities in substance abuse prevention techniques, strategies and evidence-based practices.  They brought in several wonderful speakers including the Surgeon General Regina Benjamin who worked for several years in Alabama. The Director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, spoke as well.

I also visited with our legislative offices: Sewell, Sessions, Shelby, and Bachus. I met Congresswoman Sewell who was very kind and gracious. The purpose of these visits was to ask for support of our efforts as a coalition. All of the offices complemented us on our efforts and pledged their support.

Read More »
Comments (0)       

I am not an addict nor have I been directly affected by addiction. However, I have seen many lives transformed by the curse of substance abuse. I've watched successful business women lose their careers, their families, their rights, and their lives from struggles with addiction. I've watched young people with the whole world at their finger tips lose grip of reality and spiral out of control, leaving them in jail, homeless or dead. 

It seems that our society and the new generation of kids have a void to fill. Everyone wants the feeling of belonging and acceptance. Peer pressure doesn't seem to be just with children and young people anymore. All people all different ages experience peer pressure and wanting to be accepted.

Read More »
Comments (1)       

What a random and odd way to start a blog on reducing the effects of addiction in the Birmingham area. Many people have politely asked this exact question in their own way as we at The Addiction Coalition have started this journey to eliminate drug and alcohol addiction in our area. They have a great thought process because it seems to be an insurmountable summit that seemingly no one will ever climb. They don’t see how we can affect change of one of the most destructive forces in our community.

My first thought is that many people don’t realize how big this problem really is.

Did you know that drugs are at the heart of most major issues in the US?

  • 25% of the Healthcare costs of our Great Generation stems from substance abuse.
  • 1.4 billion lbs of toxic waste is poured into our environment.
  • Substance abuse causes 93.75% of the Dropout Rate among high school students.
  • 57% of women contracting the AIDS virus have been linked strictly to IV drug use, not to mention high risk behavior that stems from the use.
  • 60% of teen suicide is linked to substance abuse.
  • Every 2.5 minutes a teen is arrested for involvement in a drug or alcohol related crime.
  • Over 90% of the murders in our community stem from drugs.
  • 25% of divorcees cite substance misuse as the reason for the divorce.

Read More »
Comments (0)