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Drug overdoses rising in SWLA

Updated: Jan. 28, 2019 at 10:39 PM CST
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SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - The pain of addiction can be felt throughout Southwest Louisiana. In the Lake Area, hard drugs like heroin and fentanyl have taken the lives of hundreds after a fatal overdose. Leaving those families with a void that can’t be filled.

Lee Ann Ledoux is sober now, but says she has had countless overdoses.

“There was plenty of times where I woke up on the floor in vomit and I could’ve totally not woken up. And I don’t know how I did wake up and don’t know why I did wake up,” LeDoux said. “I was a train wreck. I was staring death in the face.”

Ledoux says 13-years-ago she started using anything she could get her hands on. She began using drugs like meth, pills, opioids, and would chase them all down with alcohol.

"Some people's rock bottom is no heartbeat,” LeDoux said. “And that's all it takes is just that one more time. That one more time of getting high is the last time."

Charlie Hunter with the Calcasieu Parish Coroner's Office says the number of overdose deaths has started to increase year after year.

"We're seeing a lot of trends focused more towards Calcasieu parish even in my 15-year career," Hunter said.

The Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office handled 29 overdose deaths in 2018. That’s 18 more deaths than just 3-years-ago. And Hunter says it may very well increase.

“From 29 overdoses last year, based on the way statistics are trending, you’re looking in the mid 30′s to even 40′s this year alone in Calcasieu Parish.”

That number only accounts for those overdose cases that ended up being fatal. Acadian Ambulance services covers most of Southwest Louisiana. They say throughout the region, they received 1,222 overdose calls just in 2018—the year before, around 900; A 35 percent increase. And as of mid-January, Acadian has already responded to over 45 overdose calls.

“I would love to say, ‘yeah, there’s going to be an end in it. These numbers are going to decrease,’” Hunter said. “But unfortunately, the numbers are going in the opposite direction.”

Acadian says Narcan was administered on 28% of the 1,222 overdose calls in 2018. This anti-drug is so powerful at saving the lives of overdose victims, it is being carried by most law enforcement agencies.

“This drug has saved hundreds and hundreds of lives in Calcasieu parish,” Hunter said. “When we did this last year, when we did our numbers, had Narcan not been administered, you’re talking the potential for 200 more overdose deaths. We’d go from 29 to 229 in a year if this was not readily available.”

Hunter says addicts can get themselves clean, but they have to want to.

"As a community, we're going to have to get the word out there that these drugs are causing people to die,” Hunter said. “With any problem I guess, it goes down to the individual person.”

And LeDoux is living proof of just that.

“People say it’s a disease,” LeDoux said. “I don’t think it’s a disease. I feel like it’s a choice that we make. I chose to get help. I chose to live, you know?”

Now, over three years clean, LeDoux says she has focused her life toward helping others struggling see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Ledoux is now married, living at home with her five children, taking an interest in her family and enjoying every moment she has with them. She says she is now taking life one day at a time.

“It’s why we’re here,” LeDoux said. “It’s the best thing in the world. This is an exciting world that we live in. It’s time to get excited about your life. It’s time!”

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