EBR shatters overdose death records in 2019

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BATON ROUGE- The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office reports 2019 did not end well, as the parish broke a record for drug overdose deaths.

In 2019, there were 131 overdoses. That's 20 more deaths than the parish's 2017 record of 111.

The East Baton Rouge Coroner's office said of the 131 overdose deaths, at least 70 were caused by Fentanyl. That's a potent opioid that is similar to Morphine. The Coroner's Office says Fentanyl numbers could increase as it awaits toxicology results on at least eight overdose deaths.

In September, we introduced you to Alyssa Dryden. Dryden told WBRZ at that time that she is lucky to be alive after almost dying four times.

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

Dryden said like most of the overdoses, her addiction stemmed 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."

Numbers obtained by the Investigative Unit show the alarming trend does not appear to be getting any better.

                 2016 - 89 overdose deaths

                  2017 - 111 overdose deaths

                  2018 - 102 overdose deaths

                  2019 - 131 overdose deaths

East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said when his office goes back to investigate these deaths they look at where someone's opioid addiction started. In almost all cases, it started with the use of a prescription drug.

"That's why this is going to be the worst epidemic this country has ever seen," Clark told WBRZ in September, as numbers were on target to break records. "It can kill all of us. It's not isolated to one group. Everyone and everybody can be affected."

Clark believes the way to fix it is to stop the illegal trade of narcotics. He added that doctors need to treat patients with addictions carefully and it's all about responsible prescribing.

For people like Dryden, having a new beginning means getting the word out to help others.

"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 expects the toxicology results on about eight pending cases to be available in the next couple of weeks.


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