‘Catastrophe;’ 95% of overdose deaths in New Orleans were from fentanyl in 2022

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:36 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Fentanyl drug overdoses kill more than a hundred thousand people every year across America. In New Orleans, Coroner Dr. Dwight McKenna says the loss is great.

“It’s a catastrophe of the highest order,” says Dr. McKenna.

Dr. McKenna says of the nearly 500 drug overdose death in New Orleans last year, 95% of them were from fentanyl. This year, he says it could be worse.

“We’re losing them on a daily basis. At that rate we’re going, it’s going to be greater than a loss a day,” says Dr. McKenna.

Dr. McKenna says attention needs to be brought to the drug crisis facing the community.

“Fentanyl, depending on how you make it, is 300 times more powerful than Morphine. You can’t wake up from that,” says Dr. McKenna.

“Two milligrams, that’s the amount that can fit on the tip of a pencil, is enough to be lethal,” says DEA Special Agent in Charge, Brad Byerley.

Law enforcement agencies are training to deal with the amount of fentanyl that’s now on the streets. The Drug Enforcement Administration hosted two training sessions with about 60 NOPD officers.

“We brought in a senior forensic chemist from the DEA lab and what she did was explain what fentanyl is and she talked about the dangers of fentanyl,” says Byerley.

The NOPD received personal protective gear against fentanyl, and they learned how to conduct an on-scene test for the dangerous drug.

“This year alone we’ve already seized over 50 million fake pills that contain fentanyl. We’ve seized over 10,000 pounds of powder fentanyl,” says Byerley.

“Fentanyl can be laced in marijuana, cocaine, and in everything,” says Dr. McKenna.

Fentanyl is now being found in almost every other drug.

“There’s xylazine, which is another drug that’s coming up. It’s a horse tranquilizer that people are shooting up and we’ve seen 6% of fentanyl deaths show up with xylazine in it now,” says Dr. McKenna.

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