NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "You don't know what's in it. It's death. Heroin is death," DEA Special Agent Debbie Webber said.
It's been described as the most potent and highly addictive drug. Heroin is also the most frequently used among opiate addicts.
"We're seeing it in the suburbs, in the rural areas - it's everywhere. It's a big problem right now," Webber said.
Law enforcement officers say the more than 20 people accused of being members of a heroin ring on the north shore were both addicts and dealers of the drug. Seventeen people are now in custody, including alleged ring leader Scottie Fisher, of Mandeville.
"This guy Scottie Fisher was selling to individuals who we believe used to do prescription drugs in the past and stepped it up," St. Tammany Parish Narcotics Investigator Capt. William Hart said.
Two of those arrested are former north shore athletes: Casey Kebodeaux, who played for Alabama, and Ryan O'Shea, who played for UNO and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. Still at large are Ryan Adams, who played for the Baltimore Orioles, and Steven Korte Jr. who played for LSU.
Special Agent Webber said a dramatic increase in heroin use is likely because of a successful crackdown on prescription drugs.
"Then, the prescription drugs are not readily available anymore. The doctors may not write them a prescription anymore, and then they turn to heroin because it's easier to find in the illegal drug market," Webber said.
She said anyone can become a heroin addict, and athletes may be even more susceptible.
"We've seen athletes get addicted to prescription drugs. They get an injury and they get prescribed, say, 60 pills for an injury, when they may have only needed to take four or five. They end up finishing the bottle because the addiction is so powerful," Webber said.
Eventually, the pill addiction becomes a heroin addiction that spirals out of control, Webber said. She said heroin has become an epidemic - not just in our region, but across the United States.