The DEA's special agent in charge says heroin use is now an epidemic in the New Orleans metro area.
The agency is constantly working to crack down on the people who sell heroin and hold them responsible for the deaths of users who overdose.
"With heroin, it is an epidemic," said Special Agent in Charge Keith Brown. "We are seeing heroin in places we hadn't seen before."
Brown says the spreading threat of heroin has contributed to a growing number of arrests and deaths.
"Unfortunately, their economic opportunity is a poison," Brown said. "It kills people."
In a recent federal grand jury case, 12 people were indicted in a heroin trafficking conspiracy. Two of them, Terence Taylor and Malcolm Bolden, were additionally charged with distributing heroin that resulted in the death of a 23-year-old Kevin Ryan, of Slidell.
"He didn't want to die," said Kevin's father, Larry. "He had too much going for him."
Ryan says his son loved life to the fullest, and when he began struggling with a heroin addiction, he reached out to his parents for help.
Ryan said Kevin came out of rehab a new person and was clean for two months. Then, one afternoon last September, he said Kevin left the house with a man his family didn't know.
That night, Kevin died of a heroin overdose.
"People have to open their eyes and wake up because it's an epidemic and it's getting worse and worse," Ryan said.
"Today, it's hard to pick out a heroin addict," Brown said. "They are flight attendants, nurses, doctors, teachers and, unfortunately, they are kids."
Brown said heroin users often start with an addiction to prescription pain killers, and it's the reason why the crackdown on heroin begins with prescription drugs.
"Going after the few medical professionals that are abandoning their oath to do no harm and start profiting from the misery, and then we are going after the heroin traffickers and we go after the people selling on the street," Brown said.
He says the recent indictment should serve as a reminder to those who carelessly sell the drug.
For Kevin Ryan's family, life will never be the same.
"It's just an empty void, and my wife called him her angel boy because she always said he was special," Larry Ryan said.
New Orleans EMS reports that heroin use and deaths are skyrocketing in the city. Emergency medical technicians have already dealt with nine cardiac arrests related to heroin use so far this year.