BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Drugs laced with fentanyl contributed to the deaths of over a thousand Louisianans last year, state health department officials said on Tuesday morning.
The Drug Enforcement Agency describes the drug as a “potent synthetic opioid drug” used for pain relief. Fentanyl is cited as being 100 times stronger than morphine.
Deadly fentanyl overdoses “increased sharply” since 2019, according to a news release from the Louisiana Department of Health. Officials said 64.9% of suspected drug-related deaths in the state involved fentanyl in 2022. Click here to see Louisiana data about opioids.
State health officials said just two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to trigger a deadly overdose. A campaign launched by LDH aims to raise awareness about fentanyl and ways to reduce overdose rates.
What are the signs of an overdose?
According to LDH, signs of an opioid overdose include paleness/clamminess, the body going limp, purple or blue-colored fingernails or lips, vomiting, inability to wake or speak and slowing or stopped breathing or heartbeat.
If an overdose is suspected, state health officials said to call 911 immediately. If a person needs medical assistance because of an overdose, they won’t be prosecuted or penalized for drug possession according to state law, officials said.
Health officials said rescue breathing or chest compressions can be started and Narcan can be administered if it is available. LDH said Narcan, or Naloxone, can be found at Louisiana pharmacies and is covered by Medicaid. Click here for more information about getting Narcan.
How is Louisiana addressing the opioid crisis?
Access to Medication for Opioid Use Disorder is being expanded statewide at treatment facilities along with keeping or extending hours at treatment programs in Shreveport, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Hammond, according to LDH. The state is reportedly adding an eleventh provider to offer opioid treatment medication.
Officials said over 20,000 Naloxone kits are being distributed to reduce overdose rates. A system was created to distribute safe storage and disposal products, testing strips and more, LDH said.
The state health department notes that it has worked with lawmakers to decriminalize fentanyl testing strips.
May 9 was proclaimed as Fentanyl Awareness Day by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Visit opioidhelpla.org for more information about fentanyl in Louisiana.