The Louisiana Department of Health’s (LDH) Office of Public Health (OPH) in Acadiana (Region 4) is launching a media campaign to help bring more awareness to the fentanyl overdose crisis affecting the region. The campaign is a partnership that includes local media outlets, Lafayette Consolidated Government, the Lafayette Parish coroner’s office and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The campaign will include public service announcements (PSAs) that will be featured on television, social media and radio stations in the Acadiana region starting in December 2022. The PSAs feature local first responders talking about the opioid crisis, physicians discussing what they have seen in their line of work, public officials urging parents to speak with their children about buying fake pills on the internet and Acadiana residents sharing the experience of losing loved ones to fatal fentanyl overdoses. Each PSA will focus on a different message of awareness, prevention and support.
Why it’s important to address this now
The holiday season is a time when some people may face triggers that lead them to use substances, including illicit drugs that may contain fatal doses of fentanyl. The holiday season is a time to be together with family, but for people struggling with addiction and/or stress, the holidays can be the hardest time of the season. We are encouraging families to have conversations about the dangers of illicit drugs that could contain fatal fentanyl doses.
There has been an alarming increase across the United States in the availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl, a powerful opioid that has proven more lethal than other forms of narcotics. International and domestic criminal drug networks are mass producing fake pills and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, which has resulted in tragic fatal overdoses. The counterfeit pills are easy to purchase, widely available and often contain deadly amounts of fentanyl.
The problem in Louisiana and Acadiana
Louisiana fentanyl drug-related deaths increased from fewer than 200 statewide in 2017 to nearly 1,000 last year.
In Acadiana, drug-involved overdose deaths increased by 219% from 2016 to 2021. Fentanyl overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45, according to the CDC.
Pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are dangerous, illegal and potentially lethal. Some of the most common counterfeit pills are made to look like prescription opioids, such as oxycodone (marketed as Oxycontin or Percocet), hydrocodone (marketed as Vicodin), and alprazolam (marketed as Xanax); or stimulants such as amphetamines, often marketed as Adderall. These fake prescriptions are often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, making them available to anyone with an internet connection, including teens and young adults. Fentanyl has also been found in illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
“No community is safe from this crisis and the tragedy of overdose deaths is affecting our families and friends here in Acadiana,” said Region 4 Medical Director Dr. Tina Stefanski. “From someone struggling with addiction to someone experimenting for the first time, this drug is claiming the lives of the young and old. Our goal through this media campaign is to alert the entire community to this threat. With fentanyl, there are no do-overs. One bad decision could be your last.”
In addition to the PSA campaign, the Office of Public Health Region 4, along with local coroners’ offices and Acadian Ambulance have been speaking to various groups including first responders, civic groups and school officials and to educate the community about the dangers of opioids, prevention and the use of Narcan, an overdose-reversing medication. To date, OPH, with the assistance of Acadiana Human Service District, has distributed more than 2,000 doses of Narcan to local police and fire departments.
Narcan is available to you without a prescription at your local pharmacy. If you are on Medicaid, you can get Narcan for free at your local pharmacy. The Narcan standing order can be found at http://ldh.la.gov/opioids. Narcan coverage varies by insurance carrier.
For more information on the fentanyl overdose crisis, visit Get Smart about Drugs. For treatment resources, dial 211 or visit findtreatment.gov
For media and interview inquiries, including with first responders and hospital staff, contact Stacy.Conrad@la.gov