COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - As the war on drugs in the Chattahoochee Valley rages on, certain narcotics and moving up into the most abused and dangerous.
We set out to investigate that list, plus how and where those illegal drugs are hitting our neighborhoods.
For our special report on "The Next Bad Drug," three recovering addicts told us their stories of getting hooked on multiple drugs that still plague the Chattahoochee Valley – like Blake Russell, who started using when he was 13 years old.
“I went from marijuana to cocaine to ecstasy, then it progressed on up to crystal meth,” former drug addict Blake Russell said.
He showed us tattoos telling about his gang life and 8 years in prison. Behind bars, he said God sucker punched him and Blake's been clean going on 3 years.
At 15 years old, Taylor Jones of Columbus started smoking marijuana to fit in, moving to the prescription drug Adderall, then tried methamphetamine, which took hold.
"It's just a really intense drug that literally steals, kills and destroys everything that you have,” Jones said
Sober for almost a year now, Taylor warns that you never know what ingredients or other drugs that meth makers are putting in it.
"You could always have bad reactions and it could kill you, it could blow your heart up,” Jones said
Meth can be deadly, but law enforcement say it’s one of the few drugs that's slowed down locally.
"The next big thing that's coming to Columbus, coming back to Columbus, is heroin,” Sgt. Johnnie Ellerbee, with the Muscogee County Sheriff's Investigations, said.
One of the biggest concerns for drug agents in Columbus is the increase in deaths lately due to designer drugs or overdosing on heroin.
Sgt. Ellerbee says he's seized drugs all over, from low-income to the most affluent neighborhoods. We asked what newer narcotics are hitting our communities.
"We're inundated with Molly,” Sgt. Ellerbee said.
"I hear Molly, I see Molly all the time, on Facebook, people talking about how they're going to turn up on the Molly,” former drug dealer Norman Quarles of Columbus said.
Quarles, who went to prison 3 times, still talks to guys on the streets daily. They tell him Molly - the pure powder or crystal form of ecstasy - is more like X on crack. And he agrees with the Sergeant, drugs know no boundaries.
"Where there are nice homes, 3 to 4 cars in the yard, and Molly is right there, marijuana is right there, heroin is right there, crack it's right there,” Quarles said.
"The number one abused drug is still prescription drugs. They're too easy to get, they're in our high schools, they're in our colleges, they're in every walk of life,” Sgt. Ellerbee said.
He says number 2 in our area is still marijuana. 3rd through 5th on the sheriff's investigators' list of most abused drugs around here are: cocaine, crack, and meth.
“I manufactured crystal methamphetamine, in downtown Columbus for 2 months, in a residential neighborhood. Nobody ever knew," Russell told us.
"Methamphetamines, the people only literally come out at night, so you might notice some abnormal things," Jones added.
Meth or a list of drugs could even be sold where you live. Sgt. Ellerbee says this is what to watch out for: a house that someone owns or rents, when they're rarely at home, then there's a lot of traffic real quick and then they're gone.
“That could be a stash house where drugs, large quantities are being distributed to runners - or if you have that house where it looks like a drive-thru at a fast food restaurant, continuous, you're probably looking at a drug house,” Sgt. Ellerbee said.
“To the naked eye, you can ride by somebody's house, and it look totally normal, and it be a dope house. There's so many of them,” Russell said.
And he says when one drug house is shut down, another one pops up. But how do the illegal drugs make their way into the Columbus area?
"Most of the designer drugs are coming from overseas, so it's really hard for us to find the source or regulate,” Sgt. Ellerbee told News Leader 9. "Drugs are transported in a lot of different ways, they're in hidden compartments in vehicles, through container shipments."
He tell us the next bad drug often also rides in on delivery services.
The ex-addicts we spoke with say they were spiritually delivered from those drugs - with a new high, for Jesus.
"I literally couldn't shake it, so basically I had to rely on the Lord,” Jones said.
Russell agreed, "For me, it was the power of the Gospel that changed my life."
The Independent, a British national newspaper, enlisted experts to come up with a list of the world’s 10 most deadly street drugs, half of which have not been seen in the Chattahoochee Valley yet:
10. Purple Drank (concoction of soda water, sweets, cold medicine)
9. Scopolamine (nightshade plant)
7. Crack cocaine
6. Crystal meth
5. AH-7921 (synthetic opioid)
4. Flakka (new street drug hitting Florida hard)
3. Bath salts
2. Whoonga (combo of antiretroviral drugs that treat HIV)
1. Krokodil (popular in Russia)
And join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #TheNextBadDrug.
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