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NOLA Drug Overdose Deaths Doubled in 2016
from The AP
March 28, 2017 -

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Overdose deaths in New Orleans doubled last year, according to the city's coroner, who described it a "public health crisis" and called for more addiction treatment.

Dr. Jeffrey Rouse said in a news release Monday that 211 people died of accidental drug-related deaths in 2016 as compared to 92 the previous year.

Rouse said it's likely the first time overdose deaths have surpassed homicides in the city's history. There were 175 homicides in the city last year.

"New Orleans is in the midst of an accelerating public health crisis of drug-related deaths, driven chiefly but not exclusively by the ongoing national opiate epidemic. Medically, expanding access to all levels of addiction treatment is the solution, before persons end up in my office," Rouse said.

He also called for expanded drug diversion programs and drug courts "that prioritize treatment rather than punishment for users."

Some other findings of the report:

— Most people who died of a drug overdose had multiple drugs in their system. But, opiates were found in nearly 80 percent of the overdose cases.

— There was also a threefold increase in the frequency of fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid.

— Men accounted for 80 percent of the drug-related deaths.

The city's medical director, Dr. Joseph Kanter, said the city's EMS started seeing a spike in overdoses in January of last year. As part of efforts to combat the problem, he said naloxone — a drug used to counter overdoses — can now be purchased in pharmacies across the city and state.

The city is also advocating for more drug treatment, and Kanter said over the past year local clinics have received $3.4 million in federal grants to expand treatment for opioid addiction.

He also called on people who have unused opioid prescription bottles at home to dispose of them, adding that Louisiana has a higher than average number of painkiller prescriptions written every year.

"More than one bottle per resident statewide of prescription painkillers are written every year in Louisiana," he said.

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