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Drug czar meets Va. parents who've lost children to drug overdoses

"You don't think about a law enforcement's son...could get addicted to heroin and die of a drug overdose. Which is exactly what happened to him four months ago. But it does happen and it is real. This is what's happening to our country nationwide"

WARRENTON, Va. (WUSA9) — The heroin and opioid epidemic has been hammering many communities. Virginia's Fauquier and Culpeper Counties have been hit hard. On Thursday, the nation's Drug Czar visited with families who lost loved ones and talked about solutions.

Ten parents told their stories about losing their children to heroin, opioid and fentanyl overdoses. One of the parents is a special agent with the Virginia State Police.

"It can happen to absolutely anybody," said Tom Murphy. His 21- year-old son Mathew Jason Murphy died of an overdose four months ago.

"Overdosed with heroin laced with fentanyl. He died of that right before Christmas, December 13," said Tom Murphy. He said his son first got hooked on opioid pain killers prescribed for an serious injury. Then came heroin. Jason told his dad over and over that he couldn't shake the addiction.

His dad is a special agent with Virginia State Police.

RELATED: Va. moms who lost children to heroin help others

"When you hear about stigma, you don't think about a law enforcement's son, [with a father who], worked narcotics for 30 years, could get addicted to heroin and die of a drug overdose. Which is exactly what happened to him four months ago. But it does happen and it is real. This is what's happening to our country nationwide," said Murphy.

Ten parents, each with a heartbreaking story of a powerful addiction that claimed their child, spoke during the "Expand the Circle" event set up by Fauquier County Commonwealth Attorney Jim Fisher to recognize National Crime Victim's Rights Week 2018.

Every day in America, 174 people die of a drug overdose. Powell Duggan, the Mayor of Warrenton, lost his son Dan Duggan, 38, to a heroin overdose three years ago.

"He was a fun and funny person, hardworking," said Duggan. Not wanting to define Dan's life with a heroin overdose, he never spoke publicly about it until recently.

"It's time for me to let people know that it could happen to anyone. That you could have wonderful children, try to be the best parents you can be, and if this addiction gets them, it could be a lifetime thing. And its always a struggle. And I have great empathy for the addicts and everything they're going through. And I think as a society we need to try to do whatever we can to help them," said Duggan.

A special guest listening to the sad stories was Jim Carroll, the acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

RELATED: Md. mothers of overdose victims want Big Pharma to pay

"The President has committed billions of dollars toward this epidemic toward fighting this. What is most important, I think, is making sure that we don't dictate from Washington how that money is spent. Different communities have different needs. And so, while this community might need more treatment, another community might need more education," said Carroll.

On education, Carroll said his office will soon be rolling out ads on social media that he believes will help.

Some of the parents' children wound up in jail with criminal charges, which made recovery difficult. They are also pushing for decriminalizing addiction so that it can be treated as a disease and not a crime.

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