BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Heroin has the power to destroy lives, the power to kill and its pull is so great that once it has its grip on you, the fight to get your life back is literally the fight of your life.
Heroin is a major problem in many parts of the country, including Baton Rouge.
"It used to be this silent drug right, only this pocket of people," said Terry Davis, the DEA resident agent in charge. "Heroin is not silent anymore. Heroin is screaming from the rooftops, saying, 'I'm here to kill people.'"
It is quite the statement, but then again, Davis has seen it all and he said what he has seeing in Baton Rouge over the last few years is very alarming. In 2012, the number of deaths related to heroin in East Baton Rouge Parish was five. In 2013, it spiked to 35. In 2014, it was 28. What will 2015 bring? We'll have to wait and see. Davis said the drug is flooding in from Mexico.
"Over the last six or seven years, we've seen about a 400 percent increase in our heroin busts at the southwest boarder. That's where a lot of our heroin comes from," Davis explained.
So, why the big increase? Why has the market for heroin picked up so much in the Baton Rouge area? It often starts with trying to treat pain.
According to Dr. William "Beau" Clark, the coroner for East Baton Rouge Parish, the prescribed drug of choice are opiates.
"Morphine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin - pain pills," Clark said.
For some people, the high that can come with those pills is what becomes the problem. They begin to need it. But what happens when those pain pills become too expensive or they aren't prescribed anymore? Clark has seen what can happen. Some people turn to another form of opiate - heroin. But it is not the same thing.
"When you take a Hydrocodone pill, pain pill from a doctor, it is regulated by the FDA and we know it has an exact milligram dose of medication in it," Clark explained.
However, that is not the case with heroin. Davis said users never really know what they're getting.
"The potency and purity levels from the traffickers out of Mexico are a recipe for disaster. And that's what we're seeing on the streets of Baton Rouge, unfortunately. Heroin is death. There is no such thing as a good batch of heroin," Davis added.
For some, the journey into heroin will end with them in a body bag. It is very easy to overdose on the drug. And the victims are exactly that - victims.
"The overdoses are attributable to someone peddling poison in our community," Davis said.
So, how can the heroin problem be defeated? As you can imagine, it takes a lot of people to fight this addiction.
"The first place it starts is with the person who is addicted. They've got to decide, 'I want to get better,'" Clark said.
But, of course, they can't do it alone.
"It's a team effort," Dr. Harry Day said. "It doesn't work in isolation. We tell the patient, 'Do not try and do this by yourself.'"
In his time as a primary care physician in Baton Rouge, Day has seen plenty of the drug and what it can do. For the longest time, Methadone was the drug of choice to help kick the heroin addiction. According to Day, there is a new tool in the fight. It's called Buprenorphine. He said it can start to work in hours and it doesn't seem to have the side effects of Methadone.
He added it enabling addicts to begin beating the addiction, the disease, because that is what this is - a disease that can spread wherever it wants.
It is just what Davis has been seeing for years.
"Heroin knows no socio-economic boundaries. It is everywhere and it is throughout this city," Davis said.
Will things get worse before they get better? It is a question many people are asking. Officials are hopeful the answer is one we can all live with.
There are a number of options out there if you or someone you love is fighting this addiction. Zoe Medical is one of those places in Baton Rouge. It's one of the facilities where Day practices. Give the center a call at (225) 442-1818 and start taking that life back. You can also visit the website at zoemedical.net.