The Opioid Crisis in Louisiana: 3 Things You Need to Know

As the battle rages on across the country against steadily increasing numbers of lives lost

close up of a group of white tablets with an out of focus prescription bottle in the background

As the battle rages on across the country against steadily increasing numbers of lives lost to opiate overdose, Louisiana is working hard to make changes that will begin to turn the tide across the state. Between 2015 and 2016, Louisiana saw a 14.7 percent increase in the rate of drug overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), due in large part to an increase in opiate-related deaths. In an effort to get that number down in coming years, there are a few promising changes that are happening in Louisiana and across the country. Here are a few of them.

1. Fewer opioid prescriptions are being filled across the country.

Though there have been changes in regulations regarding doctor prescription of addictive painkillers, many people’s lives in addiction began with a script for a medication received legally from a doctor and filled by a pharmacist. However, an increase in the education of doctors about the nature of the drugs they are prescribing, as well as a push to better educate patients who take these kinds of medications for acute or chronic pain management, has led to an 8.9 percent decrease in the number of prescriptions for painkillers filled in the last year. In fact, it is the biggest drop in the last 25 years, according to health data firm Institute for Human Data Science.

All 50 states including Louisiana saw a decline of more than 5 percent, an indication that people are paying attention to the dangers associated with use of these drugs, and doctors are prescribing them for far shorter periods of use in the best interest of their patients.

2. The Louisiana House passes a bill to allow school nurses to carry and administer naloxone.

The Louisiana House of Representatives approved a bill earlier this month that would allow public school nurses to stock and administer naloxone, a drug used to overturn opioid overdose. House Bill 755 was passed unanimously, granting school nurses the ability to save the lives of students or other personnel in the event of an opioid overdose on campus. School nurses who opt to take advantage of the bill would be required to take part in a six-hour training that is both adult- and child-specific, so they are able to safely administer the drug. The Louisiana State Senate will also need to pass the bill before it will be sent to Governor John Bel Edward’s desk for final approval.

Additionally, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to make changes to the substance abuse prevention curriculum so there is a special focus on the dangers associated with the use of opiate drugs.

3. Over $8 million in federal funding will help Louisiana fight the opioid epidemic.

An award of $8.16 million has been granted to the state of Louisiana by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the purposes of fighting the opioid overdose epidemic across the state. The grant was part of an almost $500 million nationwide program to support states in their ability to address the opiate epidemic more effectively on a local level.

Alex Azar is the secretary of the US Health and Human Services department. He said: “These funds will help support evidence-based efforts at the state level to prevent misuse of opioids in the first place, expand access to effective treatment options for people in need, and support recovery for those who have prevailed.”

Though there is not yet a solidified plan in place for how best to distribute these funds to their greatest use, it is likely that the money will go toward increasing access to treatment as well as providing healthcare, including access to naloxone to people in crisis due to opiate addiction.

More Work to Be Done

Even as progress is made toward effectively combating the opioid crisis in Louisiana, there is still a great deal of work to be done in coming years. According to the Louisiana Opioid Surveillance Initiative, 531 people died in Louisiana in 2016 due to an opiate overdose, an increase of 217 people over 2014.

If you, or your loved one, are in crisis due to opiate addiction, it’s time to learn more about the treatment services that are available. Are you ready to take the first step toward treatment?

Since joining the Townsend content team, Shlomo has become a thought leader in the addiction field. He is a Seinfeld junkie, a recovering Twitter fanatic, and a sports expert. He enjoys milk shakes and beautiful views from rooftops.