Opioid overdoses killed hundreds in LA last year

Opioid overdoses killed hundreds in LA last year

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "It's a very real threat in our area," said St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston.

Preston said heroin and opioid addiction is having devastating effects across the country and here at home. In St. Tammany, 47 people died of an opioid overdose in 2016 compared to 35 in 2014.

"In the years between 2014 and 2016, opioid-related deaths have gone up 34 percent and heroin related deaths up 30 percent," Preston said.

Across Louisiana, opioid deaths are on the rise from 227 deaths in 2014 to 331 last year.

"Most of the heroin or opioid deaths are really poly substances. It's contaminated with the fentanyl or carfentanyl. Those drugs are really resistant to a standardized [antidote] drug like Narcan," Preston said.

The Orleans Parish coroner said opioid deaths last year outnumbered homicides in New Orleans.

"We've picked up people who are dead and who still have hospital bands on. They went in. They overdosed. They were found down. They went in to the hospital. They got revived. Half a day later, they walked right back out and started using again," said Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse.

In 2016, 211 people died as a result of an opioid overdose in New Orleans. That number was 92 in 2015.

Coroners and law enforcement agencies around the country are making a public plea to those who are using the drug or thinking about using it. Police say an 11 year old girl in Pittsburgh had to be revived from the antidote Narcan after a heroin overdose inside of her home.

"Narcan is a rescue therapy, so you can deploy Narcan to an opioid addict, and they wake up from the overdose, but if we don't treat the underlying problem of addiction, than they are just going to relapse," Preston said.

Dr. Preston points out that Narcan doesn't always work to reverse an overdose. He says the only way to truly save an addict is to get them treatment to stop using.

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