BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A new campaign to spread awareness about the growing heroin and synthetic drug problem in East Baton Rouge Parish is set to launch Thursday. It comes at a time when the parish is seeing a spike in drug-related incidents.
A couple was transported to the hospital Wednesday around noon after causing a minor traffic crash in the 12400 block of Jefferson Hwy. Officials say both adults were suffering from a suspected overdose of heroin at the time of the crash. A 8-month-old child was in the car and was transported to the hospital, too.
According to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, the crash was very minor but the male and female were taken to the hospital in serious condition. The child, although transported to the hospital, was not seriously injured.
Investigators are charging the driver with driving under the influence and child endangerment. The name of that individual will be provided upon release from the hospital.
Thankfully, this couple lived. However, deaths caused by an overdose of heroin have been on the rise and if historical data proves correct, the parish could continue to see an increase in deaths caused by heroin.
So far this year, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. William Clark has determined that 24 deaths were caused by an overdose of heroin. Currently, heroin is outpacing all other drugs for overdose-deaths.
Three additional cases of the suspected heroin overdose are pending final toxicology results.
Dr. Clark says that all of the three pending cases happened within the past week. One case involves a 28-year-old woman who was 5 months pregnant. She was found dead in her home Tuesday morning. Her unborn child died, too.
Officials with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office responded to that call. They say the woman had a history of drug abuse involving heroin.
Dr. Clark fears the parish could see a record breaking number of deaths by the end of the year.
"If you break down the monthly data, September is a bad month," Clark noted. "We don't know why, but there are more deaths in the fall than any other time of the year."
But the new campaign will focus on more than just heroin. It will include synthetic drugs as well. Although public officials and health experts have been preaching about the dangers of synthetic marijuana for years, there has been a lack of data to support the possibility of deadly consequences.
That has changed.
Dr. Clark has confirmed three deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish during 2015 were caused directly from synthetic marijuana use.
Traditional toxicology tests are not sufficient for determining cause of death for suspected synthetic marijuana cases.
"The process is very difficult," he said. "One of the deaths that we were recently able to attribute to synthetic marijuana is a case from January. That demonstrates how difficult the toxicological analysis for synthetic marijuana is."
But as is the case with heroin, those who overdose do not always die. But unlike heroin, the long-term effects of a synthetic overdose are still unknown.
The public forum discussing the new heroin and synthetic drug awareness campaign will be held at 8:30 a.m. at the Capital Area Human Services main office, 4615 Government Street. CAHSD provides mental health, addiction recovery and developmental disabilities services in East Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes.