Laura Hope Laws, 17
Laura was known for helping people in a time of need. It didn’t matter if it was an old friend, family member, or a new acquaintance that she just met. Laura always asked people how they were doing and would lend an ear to those having trouble. As an active member in her Atlanta church’s youth group, she loved participating in mission trips. By all accounts, Laura was very helpful and kind to many people. But she couldn’t help herself. Laura was addicted to heroin. Even though heroin wasn’t the drug that killed her, Laura’s struggle with drugs and addiction eventually would take her life. Laura was 17 years old when she overdosed and died using alcohol, morphine, and cocaine.
At 13, Laura experimented with alcohol and marijuana. At 14, she was selected to play on the varsity soccer team as a freshman. However, Laura became addicted to powerful painkiller opiates prescribed to her after an injury for a broken jaw she got playing soccer. Laura found relief by using these prescription pain relievers. When her doctor stopped prescribing them, she looked for the pills elsewhere by raiding the family medicine cabinet for any pills to get high. Laura eventually turned to a cheaper and more available drug, heroin.
Laura reached out to her family for help. Her parents enrolled her in an intensive outpatient treatment program. At first, Laura seemed better. She played in the annual high school powder puff football game and scored the only touchdown for the senior class. Laura had senior pictures taken and tried to live a normal teen’s life in her final year of high school. But the drugs were stronger than she was, and she would relapse and start taking heroin again.
By Thanksgiving, Laura had spent 30 days in a residential program. Her parents had planned a trip to Florida for the holidays. However, when they needed to leave, Laura could not be found. She had bumped into an old friend who was using drugs. Laura relapsed again that evening. Though she didn’t touch heroin, they drank alcohol, took morphine, and snorted cocaine. The mix of alcohol and drugs killed her.
Following her death, Laura’s parents became active with the Georgia Overdose Prevention Group that led to the passage of the 2014 Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law (her father is a board member today). This law protects those who seek immediate help for someone in a medical emergency due to drug intoxication/overdose from law enforcement and first responders. The law protects the caller and victim when small amounts of drugs or related materials are discovered when first responders give aid. Laura’s parents are hopeful that this law will help save lives when a medical emergency occurs due to a drug overdose situation, so that participants involved seek medical assistance with no fear of prosecution.