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Local officials, addiction counselors seeing increase in heroin deaths

SLIDELL, La. - Larry Ryan, of Slidell, said his son, Kevin, loved life to the fullest. When Kevin began struggling with a heroin addiction, he reached out to his mom and dad for help.

"We sent him to a place in Texas and he was there for 30 days," Ryan said. "He gained weight, like 15 pounds. He came back and he had a whole new attitude."

Ryan said Kevin came out of rehab and was clean for two months. But one afternoon, Kevin left the house with a man his family didn't know.

At just 23 years old, Kevin lost his life to a heroin overdose.

"People have to open their eyes and wake up, because it's an epidemic, and it's getting worse and worse," Ryan said.

Heroin overdose deaths are skyrocketing across the state. In Slidell alone, eight people have died from heroin so far this year, compared to zero in 2012.

In Jefferson Parish, the coroner's office said there were 63 people who died with heroin in their system in the past nine months, compared to 51 in all of last year.

"It really kind of exploded over the past two to three years," said Steve Kessler, clinical director of Addiction Recovery Resources.

"If I have 10 young people 25 or younger that come into my facility, roughly eight of them say heroin is their drug of choice," Kessler said.

Kessler said heroin is cheap and readily available, and it's also extremely dangerous and addictive. Anyone can become an addict.

"My patients will tell you that once they do heroin, they feel like they don't want to do anything else. It grabs them almost instantaneous," Kessler said.

Kevin's death devastated his family.

"It's just an empty void, and my wife called him her angel boy," Ryan said. "She always said he was special."

Ryan is hoping other parents will take notice.

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