Heroin deaths on the rise in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The deaths associated with heroin use are on the rise in the Capital City.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner said, so far, this year seven people have died from an overdose of the drug. That's up from five last year.

It's a warning echoed by law enforcement.

Heroin is not new on the streets. It's been around for years. But East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner, Dr. William "Beau" Clark, believes it's making a comeback.

He recently posted a warning on his website about heroin overdose deaths.

"There is killer heroin on the streets of Baton Rouge right now," said Dr. Clark.  "I think that's my duty as the coroner to inform the public when there's an issue and this is one."

Dr. Clark said he believes people are starting to use heroin again because they can't afford the rising prices of prescription pills on the streets. He also said new legislation that lessened the penalty for heroin distributors from a life sentence to as little as five years in prison could make matters worse.

"When the penalty shrinks like that and the judge is given some leeway in what he can sentence somebody to then it potentially can open the market for drug distribution in our state again," Clark said.

Spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, Casey Hicks, said narcotics detectives have noticed a significant difference.

"We've definitely seen an increase in the last two years as far as what our deputies have been seizing," Hicks said.

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office reports, agents seized just over five grams of heroin in 2011, close to 22 grams in 2012, and so far this year they have seized 122 grams.

"We're seeing those using heroin are getting younger and younger that's a very big concern as well," Hicks said.

Dr. Clark worries if the trend continues the number of deaths involving people hooked on heroin will follow.

"We could easily see twice as many as we had last year," Clark said.

The Baton Rouge Police Department reports it has also seen an increase in heroin arrests in the last six months.

Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved.