NEW ORLEANS — A Northshore drug bust is a glimpse into a bigger growing problem.
On Tuesday, St. Tammany Parish deputies and federal agents found 11 pounds of fentanyl in a Covington hotel room. That's enough to kill every man, woman, and child in the parish three times over. A 24-year-old unidentified man was arrested.
"We're seeing an increase in these amounts that we're seizing and the arrests that we're making," Sheriff Randy Smith said.
He estimates that about 90 percent of the drugs being taken off the streets are testing positive for fentanyl.
Nationwide, fentanyl overdoses have sharply risen since 2019, according to the CDC. It is the deadliest known recreational drug, accounting for the vast majority of opioid deaths every year. According to the DEA, just two milligrams is enough to kill the average adult.
Law enforcement agencies on the Northshore have an unusually hard time keeping the drug off of their streets. I-10 is a notorious trafficking corridor, and it dips into New Orleans right after entering St. Tammany Parish. Then, I-12 provides a straight shot to the other side of the Northshore. Sgt. Edwin Masters with the Covington Police Department explained officers are told drug runners take I-12 to avoid tighter enforcement in the large, metropolitan New Orleans area.
Sgt. Masters agrees that the problem is out of control. Masters said he has "never seen it this bad before." The department didn't even have a narcotics unit before fentanyl deaths started rising - it created one to tackle the extra cases.
People addicted to other drugs are particularly vulnerable to fentanyl overdoses. It is often mixed with other drugs, and "one pill's got twice as much as another," Florida Parishes Human Services Authority Executive Director Richard Kramer said, so "people who may think they know what they're taking are taking something different." FPHSA offers a variety of addiction and mental health services, managing five clinics across the Florida Parishes. Kramer also recommends keeping overdose reversal drugs like Narcan on hand even if you don't believe anyone close to you is addicted to opioids.
Above all, the agency's goal is to keep people alive as long as possible so they have a shot at getting treatment.
"It’s not like it was thirty years ago when every drug user was a criminal, end of discussion... we're in the business of trying to get people recovered," Kramer said.
For more information about services in Florida Parish click here.
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