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Northeast La. is fighting the opioid crisis

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 7:36 PM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - More than 1,900 Louisianans died in 2020 due to opioid-related overdoses. The opioid crisis is a growing problem throughout our country and is prevalent right here in Northeast Louisiana.

Last year in Ouachita Parish alone, there were 15 opioid-related deaths.

“I haven’t seen opiates diminish at all in the last decade, not at all, it’s just gotten worse,” said Loren Beck, a recovering addict.

The opioid crisis in NELA is not getting any better.

“Every day, it appears that we’re seeing more of it. The stuff is readily available. And we’re seeing people in their teens 20s, 30s, and 40s,” said Dr. Jay Weiss from the Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center.

Heroin, hydrocodone, and Percocet are all opioids and the list goes on.

“Virtually any opiate you can mention is a problem in our patient population,” said Dr. Weiss.

Dr. Weiss said fentanyl is playing a big role in the amount of opioid-related overdoses and deaths in Northeast Louisiana and across the country.

“Fentanyl is being used by the drug cartels and the drug dealers to cut virtually anything they are selling, especially other opiates. So we’re seeing people come in with an overdose of what they thought was heroin, but was actually heroin with fentanyl added,” said Dr. Weiss.

Loren says he got sober in 1998 and is now an addiction specialist. Beck said when a heroin addict finds out someone is selling fentanyl, they will buy it and overdose.

He said it’s such a problem--some addicts actually carry Narcan.

“They don’t use alone and they tell the people they’re with, look if this happens, Narcan me. And these guys have been Narcan-ed 3 dozen times. 35, 45 times. They can not count how many times they’ve been Narcan and that’s scary,” said Beck.

At the Palmetto Addiction Center, Dr. Weiss said they see opioid addicts every day.

“We have 100-bed facility, we have 99 patients today, that’s our census. I would say upwards of half have an opioid addiction problem,” said Dr. Jay Weiss.

Beck said he first tried opioids after back surgery. He said a big difference between now and the late 90s is opioids are easier and cheaper to buy and cheaper to buy on the street, and fentanyl is everywhere.

“When I got on opiates, I started out on three a day and within three days, I was at six a day and within seven days from then, I was thinking about where I could get them on the streets,” said Beck.

Dr. Weiss blames the lack of resources in NELA.

“We are overwhelmed, as are all the addiction facilities, with the addiction problem just seems to be growing stronger each passing year, we grow hard every day and there’s always work leftover,” said Dr. Weiss.

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, you are not alone. Below is the substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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