Challenges of tackling heroin problems

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As we approach the end of 2013, East Baton Rouge Parish officials report that while the number of homicides is down there is a new killer on the streets: heroin.

"I think we're down almost 30 homicides last year, but we're up 30 accidental deaths due to heroin overdoses," said EBR Parish coroner Dr. Beau Clark.

According to Clark, last year only saw five heroin related deaths. It was back during the summer when his office began to notice an alarming rise in heroin overdoses.  Officials believe that the drug is seeing a new resurgence because it is becoming harder to buy and abuse prescription drugs.

"Generally they're starting with oxycontin, roxycontin, and as that becomes unavailable or their financial resources are depleting, they're moving on to heroin because it's more affordable," explained Dr. Arlene Magee who is the executive director for St. Christopher's Addiction Wellness Center.

It all boils down to supply and demand.  There is a demand for a cheap opiate high, and unfortunately dealers have the supply.

So, to reverse this trend officials say the problem has to be looked at on both ends. Clark believes there should be stricter laws to affect the supply of the drug or the dealer.

Then, there's the demand which can be changed by helping addicts recover from their substance abuse.

"There is always hope," said Alecia Kleinpeter of the Cenikor Foundation.  "Believe that you can do it and we're here to help you."

There are many rehabilitation facilities available in Baton Rouge and the surrounding area, including Cenikor Foundation and St. Christopher's Addiction Wellness Center which are both long term treatment centers.

These facilities are also keeping a close eye on drug trends to make sure they are prepared for the needs of their clients, whether they come voluntarily or through the legal system.

"Our judicial partners are an integral part. They see individuals come through the court system and recognize individuals who have a desire to change and individuals whose infractions are due to their substance abuse," said Kleinpeter.

While the process of treating addiction is similar for all substances, each drug comes with its own challenges.  For heroin, the detox is intense and difficult, and must be done carefully in order properly flush the drug from the body.  After detox, comes a life long road to recovery, which can have many hurdles.

Does that person have comorbidity, are we dealing with a personality disorder that's never been treated? Or, are we dealing with trauma or family of origin issues that's never been addressed?  So there's a lot of factors that really influence a person's ability to make a decision," said Magee.

"Get help. Reach out and get help. You can beat this and you can live in recovery. It's a process, it is not a destination," said Kleinpeter.

The decision to stay sober is one that has to made each and every day, but with the right help it can be done.

If you are a loved one needs help with substance abuse, you can contact Cenikor or St. Christopher's for help.

Cenikor Foundation: 888-236-4567

Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved.