EBR heroin death toll reaches 32 with additional case pending
BATON ROUGE - Another high-profile death of an LSU student from a heroin overdose has brought the 2015 death toll for the drug to 32 in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Earlier this year, EBR Parish Coroner "Beau" Clark warned of the brewing street drug "epidemic." Last week, federal authorities released their 2015 Drug Threat Assessment and the high-powered opiate figures heavily into their outlook for what chemicals pose the greatest risk to Americans in the near future.
The DEA says heroin availability has spiked across the country, and it naturally follows that abuse, overdoses and overdose deaths come with the territory. The spike in intravenous drug use has also correlated to a boost in public health agencies and drug treatment centers being forced to scramble in an effort to catch up with a dramatic rise in hepatitis C, a disease that if left unchecked can constitute a health crisis in its own right.
According to the DEA, heroin seizure amounts in the United States have nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014, and those years saw a 51 percent spike in addicts seeking treatment through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. DEA's acting administrator, Chuck Rosenberg, says heroin and prescription drug overdoses combined accounted for nearly three-fourths of the more than 46,000 overdoses nationwide.
As the nationwide epidemic ramps up and penetrates further into the Baton Rouge area, local addicts seeking harm-reduction solutions were left with one less avenue to safety. Local group No Overdose Baton Rouge was forced to temporarily suspend their hotline and street-outreach activities.
When it was functioning, No Overdose BR provided addicts with clean syringes and the potentially life-saving anti-overdose drug Narcan free of charge. In the face of a rising tide of opioid abuse and deaths, CVS pharmacies in several states have begun offering the overdose-reversal drug, Narcan (naloxone) over-the-counter and without a prescription in both injectable and intranasal formulations.
The states where the drugstore chain currently offers the service includes Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. The Associated Press recently published a thorough guide aimed at introducing the public to the steps necessary to possibly save a life with the proper administration of the drug.
While this service isn’t available in Louisiana as of yet, increasing numbers of law enforcement agencies and firefighters are now readily equipped with the drug, which has the capability of bringing an overdosing opiate user back from the brink. EMS have had the drug on board ambulances since the early 1980s.
Despite the reinforced efforts from law enforcement, 2015 has already smashed through the record for number of heroin overdoses in a year in the parish. Coroner Clark points out that the ODs notably trend upward in the fall and winter months, so the 32 number (with another case pending) is likely be surpassed ahead of the new calendar year. The DEA's report released last week can be read here.