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East Baton Rouge on track to break record number of overdose deaths

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BATON ROUGE - As the nation grapples with the alarming opioid epidemic, Baton Rouge is on track to surpass a record number of overdose deaths, according to East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark.

"We are on track for a record year," Clark said.

Alyssa Dryden is a recovering addict. She shared her story about rock bottom and what made her get help which has kept her clean for 18 months. 

"The needle was so dull that I was using, I was stabbing myself," Dryden recalled. "The tip broke off. And I had to go to the hospital, and they had to dig it out."

Dryden will show you the marks on her arms. The mother of one is grateful to be alive after her life came full circle after overdosing four times. She recalls her addiction stemming from an opioid prescription she received for a common condition. 

"I have Rheumatoid Arthritis," Dryden said. "I suffer from auto-immune diseases. My doctor suggested pain management since I was having a lot of pain."

Dryden's mom, Janice Guitreau, recalls the pain her family went through wanting her daughter to get well. 

"It affects the whole family," Guitreau recalled. "There's a stigma with drug use... Oh not in my family. We weren't raised that way. Our children weren't raised that way. It doesn't matter."

Numbers obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit show East Baton Rouge Parish is on track to break a record this year for overdoses. Over the past three years, from January to September this is how many deaths the coroner's office investigated.

   2017 - 84
   2018 - 73
   2019 - 87

"When we go back and investigate these deaths, we go back and look at where someone's opioid addiction started and it typically began with the use of prescription drugs," East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said.

Clark said the public needs to pay particular attention to this issue because it can affect everyone. 

"That's why this is going to be the worst epidemic this country has ever seen... It can kill all of us," Clark said. "It's not isolated to one group. everyone and everybody can be affected."

Clark believes three things can be done to alleviate the increase in deaths our community and country are seeing right now. 

   1. Aggressive narcotics enforcement by stopping the illicit trade of narcotics.
   2. Doctors must treat patients with addictions carefully. 
   3. Louisiana was the first of five states to pass laws about responsible prescribing in hopes of looking at where the opioid addiction began. 
Dryden is speaking up because she wants to warn others about her rock bottom in hopes of saving lives. 

"Sharing this message is so important because there are so many people getting started who will get hurt and go to the doctor and get pain medicine and don't know what they are doing," Dryden said. 

The Coroner's Office said it has seen a significant increase in Fentanyl-related overdoses. That number has steadily gone up since last year, and they're now seeing Fentanyl being mixed in other drugs people are trying to buy on the street. The problem has become so severe, Clark said his workers are now carrying around Narcan. Narcan is a drug that reverses the effects of the overdose in case they accidentally get stuck.


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