Opioids kill 494 people in the metro area in 2017

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "When do we put our foot on the throat of this? When do we scream as loud as we can, stop it?" says Associate Special Agent-In-Charge Craig Wiles.

In the past year, 494 people died of an opioid overdose in the metro area. Wiles says the addiction is a brain disease that must be addressed.

"That's 41 deaths a month. We can do something about it in this small community we live in. It can start with something as simple as a conversation," says Wiles.

Wiles says education is key, and no one should be afraid to talk to their children about the importance of avoiding drugs. He says the statistics are mind-numbing when you consider how many doses of the opioid antidote Narcan had to be administered by first responders this year alone in the city of New Orleans.

"They've utilized Narcan 865 times. If you take that number and you split it in half, because some victims or users will require multiple doses, and you add that to the 494, then we are in dire straits," says Wiles.

He says without the Narcan, hundreds more could have died.

Making headlines around the country right now is something called the Heroin Triangle, north of Atlanta.

"What they have suggested is that the increase in overdose deaths there have spikes so high that they're going to cause a 90 days window of intervention through all lanes of effort, enforcement, education and treatment to attack this particular area," says Wiles.

Wiles says the triangle shows that the traditional heroin areas are non-existent. Heroin abuse happens everywhere and anywhere, which is very similar to what we're experiencing here in New Orleans.

"We have to be aware of it. If you take a look at Atlanta, and you talk about the suburbs, then we could talk about the suburbs of New Orleans as well," says Wiles.

While the numbers are shocking, Wiles points to what action needs to be taken moving forward.

"We can support enforcement and intervention against drug markets and drug violence. We should demand that our schools get a drug awareness and intervention program throughout all of ours schools," says Wiles.

He says users should be encouraged to get help now.

"The first thing we need to do as a society is tell the user it's OK. Today is your day, 2018 is a new year. It's your day. Pick up the phone and call somebody," he says.