STATE OF AFFAIRS: Louisiana Fights Teen Heroin Epidemic with Limited Resources
BOSSIER CITY, La. – Five hours northwest of the greater New Orleans area, near Shreveport is the city of Bossier. It’s population is only 66,000, but it is home base to Louisiana’s army against the drugs devouring the state. Louisiana’s drugs of choice are prescription drugs and methamphetamines, but a killer lurks in the shadows and its victims are growing in number. The suspect is heroin, and while it is profiled and pinpointed in certain areas, it is a villain ever changing in nature and distribution. Heroin is a seductive drug capable of mass reproduction. A seducer that will stop at nothing until it consumes entire families and neighborhoods.
“The greatest rise we have seen in heroin use is among adolescents,” says the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse of Northwest Louisiana’s Residential Services Director Dr. Jennifer Hodges-Crowder. “There is a large population of teenagers using heroin intravenously.”
“By teenagers, you mean 18 and 19 year olds?” we asked.
“No,” says Dr. Hodges-Crowder. “I mean 15 year olds. I currently have 14 adolescents in residential treatment. Three are intravenous heroin users.”
Because there is only one facility in the entire state of Louisiana that provides detox to underage users (CADA), many teens wind up in the hospital after an overdose – if they are lucky enough to survive. Dr. Hodges-Crowder says smokeable heroin has not been as big as an issue, but rather that our future generation of leaders have turned straight to injecting it.
“They usually start out drinking alcohol, smoking some pot, taking prescription pain pills and abusing cold medicine,” says Dr. Hodges-Crowder. “Then it escalates to heroin.”
Not only is CADA the only facility that offers detox to adolescents, but it is also the only facility that provides detox for adults without insurance in Northwest Louisiana. The non-profit agency has worked since its inception in 1958 to aid in prevention and education on drug abuse in the communities of Louisiana.
Addiction is not the only problem growing from the Bayou State’s battle with heroin addiction. Dr. Hodges-Crowder says New Orleans is home to the only needle exchange program in the state (an initiative that allows drug users to bring in their dirty syringes in exchange for clean ones).
“We have seen a high rate of new HIV and Hepatitis C infections,” says Dr. Hodges-Crowder. “Our state is one of the highest rates in the U.S., and it’s also one of the highest rates of heroin use per capita.”
Also lacking in the state are prescription drug box drop offs.
Dr. Hodges-Crowder says that while the number of heroin cases are mostly concentrated to the greater New Orleans area, it is an epidemic quickly spreading across the state. Synthetic cannabis is also an issue. The state has seen a crackdown from law enforcement, but simply can’t keep up with the production. Dr. Hodges-Crowder says it is constantly evolving into new brands and products. In addition to that, a new scary cocktail is on the rise among teens.
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“We need more education prevention services,” says Dr. Hodges-Crowder. “Anyone can get hooked on prescription drugs and more and more people are moving towards heroin. It crosses all socio-economic boundaries. We need more detoxification services. Most insurances don’t pay for that cost.”
Here is the point in our STATE OF AFFAIRS article where I might as well just cut and paste. We have examined several states, and every single one, with NO exception has seen the following perpetuation of the epidemic.
- The state sees a problem with prescription drug abuse
- The state implements a program to cut down on abuse, such as a drug tracking system to prevent doctor shopping (when a user goes from doctor to doctor to get more drugs)
- Users turn to the more accessible and cheaper heroin
“There IS help available for people suffering and for their families,” says Dr. Hodges-Crowder. “It CAN be treated. People can overcome addiction.”
The state of Louisiana has consistently cut drug education, prevention and treatment programs over the past 10 years. CADA says they are fortunate because they have community support, but “it’s always a struggle”.
“We have had to cut some services we provide over the years,” says Dr. Hodges-Crowder. “If we’ve had to cut certain programs and those people were not able to absorb into another program, we’ve had to let them go at times.”
Because CADA is a non-profit, they are able to raise funds in the community to provide treatment services to those in need in the state. Unfortunately, it is a common issue we’ve seen in nearly every state.
Addiction Campuses believes prevention and treatment services are necessary defense expenditures that ensure quality of life and safety of the citizens in any state. We commend CADA in their efforts and are committed to working with them to fight the drug apocalypse spreading throughout the United States.
Dr. Hodges-Crowder is a Louisiana native with 17 years of experience in non-profit and for-profit behavioral healthcare business management. She was trained as a scientist-practitioner in Counseling Psychology with emphasis in neuropsychology and diagnostic evaluation. Dr. Hodges-Crowder’s professional focus is in clinical program development for adolescents and adults, performance improvement evaluation, and governing agency compliance monitoring for medical model behavioral health programs. She has developed, implemented and supervised programs in social detoxification, intensive residential addictive disorders treatment, corporate drug-free workplace, and outpatient behavioral healthcare milieus in Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. She is currently the residential services director for the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse of Northwest Louisiana.
About Addiction Campuses: Addiction Campuses provides the most comprehensive addiction treatment program in the country by going beyond the standard 30 day plan and treating persons struggling with addiction mentally and spiritually to break the cycle of repeated visits to treatment. Utilizing our addiction campus environment we have the depth of caring staff, industry experience and clinical proficiency to effectively treat the disease of addiction for life. Addiction Campuses’ admissions center is trained to assess and place the client into one of the Addiction Campuses treatment centers across the country within a 1 hour time frame. This speed in service delivery and thorough commitment to the client long term allows the person struggling with addiction to get quickly on the road to recovery and create a life that’s worth living.
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