By Ted Scouten

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Roberto Salcedo has great memories of his older brother Guillermo.

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“He was always very analytical, smart, very studious,” he said.

The two went to Gulliver Prep and Guillermo went on to college. Somewhere along the way, he found drugs.

“Pretty much like the last candidate you’d think to become an addict,” said his mother, Linda Salcedo. “I know that he did oxycodone and from oxycodone, I would imagine, he went straight to heroin.”

At 25, he overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl.

“He passed away 21 days later,” she said. “I was able to say goodbye and I give thanks to that.”

Experts are calling the rise of opioid and heroin deaths an epidemic.

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“According to the CDC, heroin-related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010,” said Benjamin Greenberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Greenberg hosted a townhall meeting Thursday at Booker T. Washington High School to inform the community of the deadly spread of heroin, opioids and fentanyl. Two panel discussions reinforced the Justice Department’s three-fold approach to the epidemic by raising awareness, highlighting the best uses of police enforcement, and deploying resources for treatment.

“Unincorporated Miami-Dade County, last year, we had 84 murders,” said Miami-Dade Police Dir. Juan Perez. “We had over 270 deaths related to heroin overdoses. That paints the picture right now.”

The DEA said drugs on the street are stronger than ever.

“We see fentanyl mixed with cofentanyl, mixed with heroin and cocaine, and it’s amazing to me that some people survive even consuming some of this stuff,” said DEA Assoc. Lab Director Agnes Winokur.

Many overdose without even realizing what they took.

“When you’re buying heroin from a dealer on the street or someone else, you don’t know what you’re buying,” said DEA agent A.J. Collazo.

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Police point out that they can’t “arrest our way out” of this crisis. It will take prevention and effective treatment programs, as well.

Ted Scouten