But a new drug is allowing police officers to save lives and give those who overdose a second chance.
The father of 18-year-old Ryan Rudolph wonders if all police and first responders - years ago had the drug Naloxone or "Narcan" to reverse the effects of an opioid or heroin overdose - his son may still be alive today.
"I lost my son eight years ago to an overdose," said Mark Rudolph. "He's gone and there's a hole there that can't be filled."
Rudolph is working with others who've fought addiction and those who've lost loved ones from overdoses - like Susan Gregory, who buried her 20-year-old son Denny in 2006.
You get a phone call to come to the hospital and your worst fear is being realized," Gregory said. "You are being told that your child is dead."
Families against narcotics is launching a new program, Operation Rx and sitting down with Macomb County Sheriffs.
"In between the time we train our deputies dispensed it to them, and we had the media event we actually had a save that very morning," said Lt. John Michalke.
And in Oakland county the sheriff's office says since March, at least seven lives have been saved.
"Our goal is to increase availability and access to Narcan," said Andrew Fortunado, director of families against narcotics.
A Center for Disease Control and Prevention study says in 2013 more than 16,000 US deaths involved prescription opioids, and more than 8,000 others were heroin-related - a cheaper alternative.
And for 25-year-old Josh Ruppel now three years clean, "It saved my life," he said.
"I would not be here right now," Ruppel said.
Many critics ask could Narcan discourage addicts from seeking treatment and be used as a safety net - or a way for addicts to use more?
"As somebody in recovery who went through my own battle, I'm going to use as much as I can use regardless on any given day if the narcan is there."
"That was the last resort," said Ruppel said. "That kills your buzz and puts you in immediate withdrawal."
Looking at photos of their sons and looking over at Josh, these parents say they only hope more lives can be saved.
"Just like we have defibrillators and epi-pens Narcan needs to be on-hand," Gregory said.
"As long as they're alive," said Rudolph, "There's hope."