La. lawmakers aim to legalize fentanyl testing strips amid spike in overdoses

Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 11:55 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Community advocates in East Baton Rouge Parish say we’re in the middle of a public health emergency.

Tonja Myles, a substance abuse consultant, said there’s a bad batch of drugs on the streets laced with fentanyl that’s causing a disturbing spike in overdoses. This includes marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and several others.

Myles said we’ve had 240 non-fatal overdoses, and 57 overdose deaths so far in 2022. 10 of those deaths happened within the past week alone. There were at least 300 overdoses in 2021, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office.

“There’s a bad batch that’s on the streets of East Baton Rouge Parish that’s killing people quicker than we’ve ever seen before,” said Myles.

We spoke to one woman in recovery who described to us the extent of how fentanyl is destroying people’s lives in East Baton Rouge. She asked us to conceal her identity due to personal reasons.

“It’s indescribable. It almost brings you to tears. You want to do everything in the world to stop, but you can’t.”

She told us she’s overdosed so many times that she lost count.

“Someone left me for dead in my house, and when I woke up the next day, I had to confront them about it. They told me my lips were blue and I wasn’t breathing and left me.”

Her drug use took an extreme toll on her body. She said there was a point doctors thought she would lose her arm and her leg, but it was her last overdose more than two years ago that changed her life.

“I was literally in my car googling to find out how long would it take before I was out of the red. That’s when I realized it was a serious problem.”

Her story is why people like Myles are fighting to get people the help they need.

“There’s a bad batch that’s on the streets of East Baton Rouge Parish that’s killing people quicker than we’ve ever seen before.”

On Thursday, March 17, Myles testified in front of lawmakers to legalize fentanyl testing strips across the state.

The strips can be used to test drugs for deadly opioids. It’s part of a harm reduction strategy to help keep people who are at the mercy of their addiction from dying before they can get help.

“People are trying to get high, not to die. Of course, we want people to get the help they need because this is not a war on drugs, this is a war on addiction,” said Myles.

The testing strips are considered drug paraphernalia in some parishes.

However, the bill is making progress. The House Committee on Criminal Justice voted unanimously to advance it.

“Look, we’re not giving people a license to use. We’re trying to give people a license to live,” said Myles.

Myles is begging for people to stop using so they can find a way to get these laced drugs off the streets.

In the meantime, she’s hoping these testing strips will give them a fresh tool in this fight.

“If they can use this to save their life until they come to an ‘ah-ha moment’ that it’s time for them to now get treatment and seek help and stop using, this is a game-changer for the state of Louisiana,” said Myles.

If you know someone in need of help, you can call 225-788-7788 or you can click here.

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