Authorities cautious of heroin spike
Black tar heroin and cash which was seized by the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office in 2011.
The increase and decrease of a drug’s popularity is often referred to as a “vicious cycle.” When considering the rise in Louisiana’s heroin overdoses and arrests over the past couple years, one would be hard-pressed to find a phrase more fitting.
State officials have stated that they believe the rise in heroin use can be directly attributed to law enforcement cracking down on prescribed opiates such as oxycontin and hydrocodone. As prescription drugs such as these become harder to find, users are seeking another opiate to get their fix which has resulted in an increase in heroin use in Louisiana.
Though heroin use has yet to skyrocket in Acadia Parsh the way it has in Lafayette and Baton Rouge (East Baton Rouge Parish seized 3,695 grams of heroin in 2013 compared to 6.6 grams in 2011), area authorities are concerned and watchful of the powerful drug hitting the streets.
“We’ve definitely been hearing the same thing,” said Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Chief Deputy Keith Latiola. “It’s nice to have a proactive legislature when it comes to facing drugs threatening the public.”
What the legislature is trying to do with House Bill 332 is to double the minimum five year prison sentence for distribution of heroin and require time for heroin possession. Users would have to serve a minimum of two years behind bars.
Louisiana virtually wiped out heroin use in the 1960s and 1970s by requiring a life sentence for distribution of the drug.
“This was lowered in 2001 and things became more lenient,” said Latiola.
Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Detective Jackie Boddye described how tough it is for heroin addicts to kick their habit.
“It is probably the hardest drug for users to quit,” she said. “Only about 26 percent of those who go to rehab for heroin are successful.”
Latiola said that he will normally try to help drug addicts he encounter that are serious about trying to turn their lives around. But he didn’t seem to have any compassion for those who sold them.
“Nine times out of ten it’s not about the drugs with these guys...it’s all about the money,” he said. “If a distributor is ruining other families by trying to make quick money they deserve their punishment.”
Boddye said a gram of heroin normally goes for about $150 on the streets.
She was present the last time Acadia Sheriff’s deputies made a heroin arrest. In that case, 16.7 grams of black tar heroin was seized following a tip from an informant.
In November 2013, Rayne police officers seized 14 grams of high-grade heroin, packaging material, drug paraphernalia and stolen items that were being traded in exchange for heroin at a residence in the city. Matthew Paul Morace and Lucricia Bourque were charged in connection with that case.
Latiola said that while there are other ways that heroin could be ingested (such as smoking or snorting the drug), he has mainly encountered users who inject the drug as has been the case for many decades in the U.S.
Surprisingly, both prescription painkillers such as oxycontin and heroin are both derived from the same source - poppy plants.
“It’s actually safer for people to use prescription drugs over heroin,” said Boddye. “Not that either is good but at least with prescription drugs they are using a given amount. With heroin, the user is the one who determines the amount.”
Like Latiola, she wanted to commend the legislature for how quick they have responded to the recent rise in heroin use.
“They have been very good about responding quickly,” she said. “They did it with bath salts and synthetic marijuana and are now doing it with heroin.”