THORNTON, Colo. – Recent statistics about opioid overdoses are alarming, but one Colorado man wants to put a face to an epidemic sweeping the nation.
An interactive map created by Jeremiah Lindemann allows families to add a picture and story about a loved one that died from a prescription or heroin overdose. The first person on the map was Lindemann's younger brother, J.T., who lost his battle with addiction when he was only 22 years old.
The Celebrating Lost Loved Ones map is a window into the lives being taken by addiction and drug abuse. So far more than 700 names have been added -- just a fraction of the more-than 30,000 Americans who die from opioid abuse every year.
"Know that 761 people -- that really only represents about five days of what's happening in our country," said Lindemann.
It can be overwhelming for him to look at the map and see all the faces. He points out a picture of a sergeant in the U.S. Army as an example of how this epidemic knows no boundaries.
As Lindemann knows, the families left behind often suffer the most. It’s been nearly 10 years since his brother died, but for much of that time he hesitated to talk about it.
"I think there's people that have a stigma, like well, these people have such dark lives and they're just choosing to use drugs. And it's not that simple," said Lindemann.
In Colorado, one person dies of a drug overdose every 9 hours and 24 minutes. Between 2002 and 2014, drug overdoses increased 68 percent in the state.
Lindemann hopes the map will raise awareness by showing everyone the real impact of this crisis, the people lost and families still mourning them.
Drugs destroyed his best friend, the best man in his wedding. J.T. struggled with addiction for several years and went to rehab. He knows his family is not alone.
"There's people dying and there's a lot of people struggling right now," said Lindemann.
Anyone can add their loved one to the map by filling out a form on the website.