It's one extra step forward in combating the opioid addiction crisis.
A pharmacy chain plans to tighten up on its policy when filling prescriptions for pain killers at a time when drug agents are seeing the epidemic skyrocket.
Beginning February 1, pharmacy giant CVS will have certain time and patient restrictions when it comes to filling pain killers. That comes on the heals of Louisiana also putting seven-day limits on some opioid prescriptions.
"We are in a grip, an opioid crisis grip in our nation," said DEA SAC Azzam.
Special Agent in Charge, Stephen Azzam, for the New Orleans Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency sees the devastation of addiction to opioids every day, including prescription pain killers and street heroin.
"We find ourself today in this heroin epidemic. I've never seen anything like this in my career, my law enforcement career 30 years," he said.
In 2015, there were 52,000 overdose deaths. In 2016, it is projected when the numbers come out, there will be 64,000 deaths. And in 2017, overdose deaths are expected to rise to 70,000 people. Around 70 percent of those are from opioids. The people dying would nearly fill up the Superdome. And in Orleans Parish in the last few years, EMS has used the life-saving drug Narcan 3,500 times to get an overdose patient breathing again.
"That's 3,500 people. That is a staggering number. Last year you had more overdose deaths in Orleans Parish than you have homicide deaths," said Agent Azzam.
For many the addiction, and even the move to street heroin, started innocently with a pain killer prescription after a medical procedure or injury. It's especially dangerous for the young whose brains are still developing.
Two different parents, who didn't feel comfortable going on camera, told Eyewitness News that they were shocked when each of their teenagers, who recently had their wisdom teeth, out were given a large prescription for pain killers. One Rx was for as many as 30 pills.
That's even more surprising since nationally, oral surgeons, such as Dr. Michael Block of Metairie, are decreasing the number of opioids they prescribe.
"I tell you, Ibuprofen is better than the narcotics. That's well documented," said Dr. Block, an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon.
Along with its investigations of drug dealers and illegal practices by some pharmacies and doctors, the DEA is on a mission to educate the community, parents and health care workers too. Agent Azzam says it's time to wake up.
"We have a long road ahead of us but we are, we have to start moving in the right direction and I think we are moving in the right direction," he said.
The DEA encourages you to go to its website and watch the documentary "Chasing the Dragon" with first-person accounts of people addicted and their family members.
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