Heroin widespread in southeast Louisiana

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Law enforcement officials in southeast Louisiana report dramatic increases in heroin-related deaths.
The trend apparently has not reached north or southwest Louisiana. 
But, talking across jurisdictional lines, sheriffs, police chiefs and coroners found that the use of the highly addictive drug has spread from inner cities to become widespread in southeast Louisiana’s smaller cities, suburbs and rural areas.
“Heroin is slowly becoming, and I believe has become, at the level of an epidemic,” said Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack.
Jefferson Parish reports a heroin death a week this year. In East Baton Rouge Parish, the year’s total so far is triple that for all of last year — from five to 14, with four more awaiting verification, said East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark.
The Louisiana State Police crime lab has tested 237 samples this year, up from 78 in 2011, said Col. Mike Edmonson, head of Louisiana State Police. “That’s an indicator of the epidemic we are seeing,” he said.
Authorities say recent changes to state laws may have contributed to increases in heroin use.
Cutting the sentence for heroin distribution in 2001 from a mandatory life sentence to a maximum of 50 years may have made dealers less wary of Louisiana, Clark said.
Another law improved prescription drug tracking, reducing the street supply.
“People addicted to opiates start looking for other drugs,” Clark said. “The problem is prescription drugs are controlled by the FDA. The heroin is not. It’s a little baggie of who knows what.”
Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith said most heroin-related deaths in his city are of young white men.
“These are kids from decent families,” he said.
Many had been in rehab. “Then they get the itch for another dose and go back to the same dose they had before they got cleaned up, and now that amount is too much for their body to handle,” he said.

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