Over five years in East Baton Rouge Parish, the number people who have died from an overdose has nearly doubled. Of those deaths during that time, about 230 were blamed on heroin.
"That, of course, gives us concern that, 'are we at the peak yet?'" asked East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark. "I think maybe we're not and this is going to get worse before it gets better."
However, heroin's grip on our area could be even tighter than the death toll shows. Paramedics use hundreds of doses of naloxone, the opioid antidote that can bring people back from the brink of death. Also known by the brand name Narcan, it reverses an overdose almost instantly.
"Many cases, when you get to someone and an OD like that, completely unresponsive, many of them are barely breathing," said Baton Rouge EMS spokesman Mike Chustz. "Once you administer this medication, you almost see an instant improvement."
Last year, paramedics with Baton Rouge EMS administered more than 820 doses of naloxone to more than 620 patients. Just as deadly overdoses have gone up, so has the need for this antidote. Records show the doses administered by EMS have also nearly doubled over the last five years.
"I’m glad we have it because the epidemic is serious," Chustz added.
However, experts say turning the tide of the epidemic takes more than arming first responders with naloxone. It also will take resources and funding to help those addicted find a way out and those resources can be hard to find.
"When we talk treatment, we talk about the cost of treatment, right? It costs money and we've got to find that money somewhere and not everybody may have the money to do it themselves and that's where the community has to step in," Clark explained.
For local rehabilitation and addiction help look here:
Capital Area Human Services District: 225-925-1906
St. Christopher’s Wellness Center: 225-387-1611
RELATED STORIES: The opioid epidemic in Louisiana
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