Heroin overdoses on the rise in East Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In 2015, there could be a new high for heroin overdoses in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Just 3 years ago, five people in the parish died from a heroin overdose. So far in 2015, that number is 20 with five cases pending.

At that rate, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark estimated that this year could top 50 cases.

"That's a ten-fold increase in cases, which it is concerning that that many people are dying as a result of heroin," Clark said.

Casey Hicks with the EBR Sheriff's Office said the rise in heroin use is partially the result of a crackdown on prescription drug abuse. As a result, she said, people are turning from synthetic heroin to the real thing.

Hicks said real heroin is "more accessible and more available than it was years ago."

There's a hidden danger with heroin. The quantity of the dangerous chemicals in the drug can vary sometimes to deadly effect.

"Nobody really knows when they go to buy it what they're getting, as opposed to when you take a prescription medication which is FDA approved," Clark said.

Other data shows that heroin use and abuse is on the rise in Baton Rouge.

In 2010, the EBR Sheriff's Office Narcotics Division seized just over 4 grams of heroin. In 2014, that number grew to 246 grams.

Heroin arrests have also been on the rise. There were three arrests in 2010. In 2014, that number was 15. Clark and Hicks both said that heroin users come from "all walks of life."

"That whole stigma of it being kind of skid-row junkie scenario is no longer the case," Clark said.

"It's a real problem for law enforcement, we're trying to work together with education, with enforcement, and different aspects to try to get this out of our community," Hicks said.

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