The tally of drug overdose fatalities in Ocean County now stands at 104 and the Prosecutors' Office said that they're waiting for toxicology results on several more individuals. However, behind those numbers are hundreds of families and friends dealing with the unbearable pain of their loss.

Sheryle Santiago, of Toms River knows this pain all too well. She lost her son Erik in January to a drug overdose and bore the pain of his addiction and death alone.

"I never spoke to anyone else before," said Santiago. I didn't go for any kind of grief counseling because I didn't want to share my story at first. It's a private story but I realized with all these young lives that are being lost that we do need to share it. We need to remember them," she explained.

She's gotten approval from the Pastor of Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Beachwood to hold a candlelight vigil this coming Sunday. The purpose of the vigil according to Santiago, is simply to remember loved ones and to comfort each other.

"I know the families are hurting. I hurt every single day and I want them to know that they're not alone. That there are people out there just like them and we need to be there for one another," she said.

The Candlelight Vigil takes place on Sunday, December 8th at the Saint Paul Lutheran Church in Beachwood on Route 9 at 2 p.m.

The Ocean County Prosecutors Office says this year's drug overdose death rate is set to more than double last year's number of 53. Spokesman Al Della Fave says the average age of those who have died are in the low to mid 20's. Della Fave attributes the increase to the purity and low price of the drugs on the streets. He said people can purchase a dose for $3 to $5 dollars.

The Ocean County Prosecutors Office is holding its second Drug Forum on December 12th in Southern Ocean County at the Stafford Township Arts Center in the Ocean First Theater at 1000 Mckinley Avenue in Manahawkin at 6 p.m.

Get more information at their Facebook Page at Family and Friends of Erik C Santiago

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