NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Anti-drug advocates are stepping up their efforts to fight a deadly problem. Opioid-related deaths in New Orleans doubled last year, and as authorities investigate more deaths over the weekend, there's a new social media push to try and stem the problem.
"We're finding fentanyl in marijuana, and that's a terrifying discovery that will cause a lot of deaths," warned Joyce Bracey with the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse for Greater New Orleans.
It's not that authorities are not trying to solve the problem, but the more they push in one direction, the more likely it is that the heroin and fentanyl derivatives will pop up in another part of town.
"The supplies are cheap and plentiful, and once they're addicted they will go anywhere to get it," said Jefferson Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich.
The deaths are being caused by any combination of heroin and fentanyl that are often deadly.
"Some of it is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and these people are trying to guess how much they're taking," Cvitanovich said.
The epidemic does not discriminate between races or economic classes.
"The face of the heroin abuser is changing. You're seeing it more in the suburbs and higher socioeconomic classes," said Cvitanovich.
Drug experts say often times recovering addicts begin using at the same level they left off before treatment and that could be a recipe for disaster.
"Somebody who has gone through rehab, they reset their tolerance, and if they go back, they've put themselves in danger of killing themselves," said Cvitanovich.
The drug's power is often irresistible, and the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse has a grant to do more.
"I feel social media is where we can reach people and we will tell more personal stories," said Bracey.
In Jefferson Parish, the coroner says the death toll is already about 15 percent higher than this time last year, and he says it's time, to do more before more families have to confront the reality of lost loved ones.
The Jefferson Parish coroner says efforts to break the painkiller cycle by forcing doctors to limit prescriptions are a step in the right direction. But he says much more needs to be done in terms of education, enforcement and addiction treatment.