JEFFERSON PARISH, La. -- A powerful and illegal designer drug, tied to dozens of deaths in the northeast has made its way to the New Orleans area.
Last month, a family member found the bodies of Anthony Junda and Jessica Lange in a home on Manderin Street in Metairie. The Jefferson Parish Coroner's office determined they both overdosed on a synthetic heroin-type drug called acetyl fentanyl.
Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich says there have been five deaths in the parish, traced to acetyl fentanyl, so far this year.
"It is many times more potent than heroin, depending on how many times it's cut, how many times the heroin is cut," Citanovich said. "Depending on who you ask, it's anywhere from five to 100 times more potent than heroin."
Dr. Cvitanovich says we could now be seeing a cluster of overdoses tied to the designer drug.
"That is my fear, and we've actually gone and reported this to the state DHH, the CDC and the DEA to let them know we've had five deaths in Jefferson Parish, so they can check if we've had others in the state."
Acetyl fentanyl is believed to have caused 50 deaths in Pennsylvania this year along with 15 in Rhode Island.
Dr. Cvitanovich says the extent of the problem is tough to gauge here in Louisiana. "We don't know how much of an epidemic it is because a lot of municipalities are not testing fully for it."
Dr. Cvitanovich says heroin deaths are on the rise in Jefferson Parish.
There were 89 deaths reported in 2011, 97 last year and 101 so far this year.