If Louisiana is known for anything across the country, it’s the Mardi Gras festivals in New Orleans. Originally part of the Carnival season before the religious holiday Ash Wednesday, these festivals have now degenerated into drunken debauchery and an opportunity for young women to flash crowds of tourists in exchange for strings of plastic beads. The festival can be seen as a symbol of declining standards toward drug and alcohol use across the state of Louisiana and in the United States at large.
Louisiana surpasses the national average for the number of deaths as a direct result of drug use. Even though some categories of drug usage are lower than their counterparts in other areas of the country, this is still a serious problem that the state needs to deal with. One such area is the abuse of prescription painkilling drugs. Louisiana is now in the top ten of all states when it comes to the number of young adults aged 18 to 25 that have abused painkillers in the last year.
Louisiana Drug Facts and Statistics
The following are the basic drug facts about the state of Louisiana:
- 623 people died in Louisiana in 2009 as a direct result of drug use. This is a rate of 13.9 people per every 100,000 that live in the state, higher than the national average of 12.8 per every 100,000.
- Between 2004 and 2008, St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana had the 5th highest rate of drug poisoning deaths in the entire country. This was because of a rate of 48 deaths per 100,000 people in that county alone.
- Despite these high death rates, marijuana is still cited as the most popular and most used illegal drug in the state.
Drugs of Abuse in Louisiana
According to recent news there has been an increase in prescription abuse leading to heroin deaths in Louisiana. This increase in heroin related deaths have become prominent in unofficial conversations between law enforcement officials across southeast Louisiana.
The use of the highly addictive drug, usually associated with urban crimes has been a topic of discussion amongst Coroners, Police Chiefs, and Sheriffs. It is said to be widespread in smaller cities, suburbs and rural areas.
Local Officials are reporting one heroin death a week since the start of 2013 in Jefferson Parish, Heroin related deaths have tripled in East Baton Rouge since last year, and there have been 8 deaths in Slidell in addition to the 15 deaths so far this year in St. Tammany’s Parish.
Brown heroin is available and coming from Mexico says Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson.
Additionally, efforts to cut into the growing trade of the sale of prescription drugs on the street have buyers turning to heroin.
A law change provided tracking of prescription drug purchases so that people could no longer get multiple prescriptions filled by “doctor shopping.” The new monitoring is reducing the number of prescription drugs on the streets. Heroin is cheaper.
The tracking of prescription drugs has cut down on users being able to get prescriptions filled or “doctor shop” in order to receive more drugs. Heroin is also cheaper so it’s becoming a more common replacement for prescriptions.
Heroin activity and surge is said not to have reached north and southwest Louisiana yet says coroners and law enforcement.
Here is some other drug use information about the state of Louisiana:
- In 1992, cocaine and crack accounted for 70 percent of all drug treatment admissions in the state. This has been dropping dramatically to the point that these drugs now only account for 20 percent of all treatment admissions.
- Marijuana is still the most popular drug in the state, but admission rates for treatment have been slightly declining to about 30 percent after a high of 40 percent in the late 90’s.
- Heroin use was flat for most of the last two decades, but since 2007 it has started markedly climbing in usage rates. This drug now accounts for over 10 percent of all drug treatment admissions.
- The fastest growing segment of drug use and drug treatment in the state is for prescription painkillers. These drugs now account for about 25 percent of all treatment.
Sources & Resources for Louisiana Drug Treatment
WhiteHouse.gov: Louisiana Drug Control Update – http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/state_profile_-_louisiana_0.pdf
The Advocate: Heroin Deaths in SE La. more Widespread than Thought