Advocates bring awareness to growing opioid addiction issues in Louisiana

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Louisiana has been seeing a consistent increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years. Due to this, Governor John Bel Edwards has declared Wednesday Opioid Crisis Awareness Day. Agencies looking to fight the issue gathered for a rally on the capitol steps.

Advocates said one of the biggest hurdles of people trying to overcome an opioid addiction is getting in touch with their resources and with the pandemic over the last year keeping people apart and isolated, they’re here to help raise awareness.

From 2019-2020 Louisiana saw a 50-75% increase in opioid overdoses, which is the highest in the country. Those who shared their experiences of loved ones or themselves dealing with addiction said they struggled to get in touch with the help they needed to save their lives.

“What’s happened during COVID is that people have become increasingly traumatized from losing loved ones, just by the effects of losing their every day,” said Mark DeClouet, a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at Axis Behavioral Health and Recovery. “When one falls in that capacity we see a significant rise in substance abuse and that’s kind of what has happened.”

Lilly Harvey is an addiction survivor. She became addicted to opioids after a neck surgery. As she was beginning to recover, her daughter Millie passed away from an overdose in her 20s.

“Once you end up in a bad addiction like I did you lose a lot of things,” Harvey said. “I lost my nursing license, I lost my home, I lost my relationship with my family and I almost lost my life.”

She also said facing withdrawal is terrifying and there is always a need for more treatment centers to handle the process. With the stigma against addiction, many are too scared to come forward before it is too late.

“There’s people like me that have gone through it and I want to offer hope to someone else who is struggling. If I did it, you can do it,” Harvey said.

With the governor’s declaration, Harvey said it is a step in the right direction to bring light to the growing issue of opioid addiction.

Find resources to help deal with opioid addiction here.

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