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Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
Email: jkelley@wwltv.com | Twitter: @jkelleyWWL

METAIRIE -- Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputies arrested a Denham Springs couple after they found them passed out in their car from an apparent heroin overdose with two kids in the back seat.

Hand-cuffed and stumbling, deputies arrested a married couple after they admitted to a $200 a day heroin habit.

The couple was found passed out in their car with their kids just a feet feet away.

It all started here in this restaurant parking lot, when folks noticed a man and woman passed out in a parked car while their 4-year-old and 11-month-old sons sat in the backseat.

When deputies arrived, they found Michael Pierce, 41, and his wife Melanie Pierce, 34, unresponsive. Officers learned the couple had shot up heroin earlier in the day and overdosed.

After treating the couple on the scene, deputies searched the car and found heroin and other drug paraphernalia inside.

'What we have to be concerned about overall as a community is that when you have young kids exposed and they end up using at an early age potentially, then you increase the risk that they get involved with drugs as well,' says James Becnel, a professor of psychiatry at the LSU School of Medicine.

Becnel specializes in addictions and says what happened Sunday afternoon is not surprising.

'Heroin use would have high-jacked portions of their brain, basically, so their priorities complete change,' says Becnel.

Becnel said heroin use is steadily on the rise in the metro area, and like national figures, Jefferson Parish has also seen a 45 percent increase in heroin use over the last seven years.

'The most recent data I have from Jefferson Parish is that in 2012 there were about 90 drug overdoses in Jefferson Parish alone,' says Becnel. 'About a quarter of those are due to heroin.'

While Becnel said the knee-jerk reaction is to lock up the parents, he said that is not the answer.

'We certainly know that when we treat them, we will have much better outcomes for them as well as their children,' Becnel said.

The couple is facing a list of charges, including child endangerment and heroin possession.

The kids were taken to the hospital to be checked out and were released to their grandparents.

This comes as parish leaders are planning a town hall meeting to discuss heroin overdoses on Sept. 3.

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