Statistics tell a somber story: Overdose deaths have surpassed homicides in Louisiana, and New Orleans leads the state in drug-related deaths.
According to Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse, in 2016 New Orleans experienced a surge in drug-related deaths, which surpassed the city’s abysmal homicide rates. Rouse reported that in 2016:
• Accidental drug-related deaths were more than double those in 2015.
• There were 211 drug related deaths compared to 92 in 2015.

• Toxicological analysis in most drug-related deaths revealed the presence of multiple drugs

• Opiates were discovered in 166 drug-related deaths, compared to 81 in 2015.

• Within this group of accidental opiate related deaths in New Orleans, there was a more than threefold increase in the frequency of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

• 48 persons died accidentally with fentanyl in their system, compared to 13 in 2015.

• Cocaine was present in 105 accidental drug-related deaths in 2016 as compared to 34 in 2015.

• Methamphetamines/amphetamines were present in 18 accidental drug-related deaths in compared to 4 in 2015.

• Males represent 80 percent of the drug related deaths.

• African-Americans were 45 percent of drug-related deaths in 2016, compared to 28 percent in 2015.

“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,” Rouse said. “Medically, expanding access to all levels of addiction treatment is the solution—before persons end up in my office.”

To address the steady increase in drug overdose deaths, Xavier is hosting a community forum on Thursday, April 20, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Pharmacy Auditorium. Panelists in the forum, “Truth behind the numbers: Why Overdose Deaths Have Surpassed Homicides in Louisiana,” include Michael Cartwright, CEO for the American Addiction centers; Roy Ary Emergency Medicine Specialist, Jessica Johnson Associate professor at Xavier’s College of Pharmacy, Thomas Maestri Clinical Assistant Professor at Xavier’s College of Pharmacy and Howard Wetsman Chief Medical officer for Townsend.

Johnson wants Xavier students especially to attend the forum because they can benefit personally from a fact-based understanding of the disease, scope and causes of the problem, and resources for addicted persons. Johnson continued by saying she would like Xavier students to be in attendance because each generation offers their own unique perspective on the problem and solutions, and students can contribute to the conversation in a way that leads to real change.

Maestri says the biggest takeaway from the forum is realizing that not every person that does drugs or is addicted to them is a bad person. We have to realize they are family members, friends, or loved ones that have been placed in an unfortunate situation that has predisposed them to the risk of being affected by this epidemic. Knowledge on addiction and overdose are imperative to the demise of this epidemic and this forum will serve as a platform for spreading the necessary knowledge to students and the community on this issue.

For more information contact Joy Sutton, Public Relations Manager for the American Addictions Center, jsutton@contactaac.com.

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