Addiction issues are prevalent all over the United States, and the state of Louisiana is no exception.
With abuse of street and club drugs, as well as the growing epidemic of prescription drug use, the communities in Louisiana are struggling with the various effects of drug abuse on families, the economy, and society at large.
For those who are trying to get help with addiction in Louisiana, it may be difficult to know where to start. There are programs and facilities available across the state that can provide treatment and resources to help people and their families with substance abuse issues. Knowing more about drug abuse in the state, how it can be treated, and where to go for support in recovery can help these people get started down the path to recovery.
The Landscape of Addiction Treatment Programs in Louisiana
The Louisiana Office of Behavioral Health provides oversight of addictive disorders treatment services in the state. As part of the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals, this organization provides treatment services through individual districts and authorities around the state. The treatment services available include:
- Inpatient and outpatient care facilities
- Community-based services: both residential and nonresidential
- Programs specifically for women with children and for opiate addiction
The office has a commitment to care with little or no waiting times, in order to provide services as quickly as possible. This meets one of the principles of effective treatment defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which states that drug abuse treatment should be readily available for those who are ready to seek help.
The Office of Behavioral Health also provides mental health treatment services through the defined districts and authorities.
The following statistics, facts, and references can make it easier to understand the state of drug abuse, addiction, and treatment in Louisiana, as well as the effects of drug abuse on various aspects of life in the state. This includes information on:
- Numbers of treatment centers
- Rates of drug use and mental illness in the state
- Effects of drug use on death and crime rates in the state
- Louisiana’s laws affecting drug use and treatment
The National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services indicates that Louisiana has about 150 treatment centers throughout the state. This includes:
- Private, nonprofit: 56
- Private, for-profit: 40
- Local, county, or community government-run: 13
- State government-run: 34
- Federal government-run: 5 (3 by the Department of Veterans Affairs and 2 by the Department of Defense)
- Tribal government-run: 2
The state has the highest percentage of state-run facilities compared to the total number of facilities in the state, at nearly 23 percent. This is because of the commitment of the Office of Behavioral Health to providing treatment as quickly as possible.
Based on the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, rates of illicit drug use in Louisiana are lower than the national average, and lower than many of the other states in the southern region of the US. Some of the comparisons include:
- Illicit drug use: US average – 9.77 percent; Louisiana – 8.55 percent
- Marijuana use: US average – 7.96 percent; Louisiana – 6.11 percent
- Alcohol use: US average – 52.42 percent; Louisiana – 49.13 percent
On the other hand, Louisiana has a higher than average issue with prescription drug abuse, and also a higher than average problem with dependence on illicit drugs.
- Nonmedical use of pain relievers: US average – 06 percent; Louisiana – 4.69 percent
- Illicit drug dependence or abuse: US average – 2.64 percent; Louisiana – 2.95 percent
The problem with prescription drug abuse is growing, and it contributes to higher uses of heroin as well. Louisiana has seen heroin use of epidemic proportions, similar to those of various New England states. For this reason, treatment for these issues is particularly important in the state. However, nationally, only a small percentage of people who are dealing with a substance abuse disorder get help; there’s no doubt that this problem affects Louisiana as well.
Effects of Drug Use on Death and Crime Rates
The bigger issue in Louisiana is that the state has one of the higher rates in the country of death due to drug overdose. A report from the Shreveport Times states that 13.2 people out of every 100,000 in the state die due to drug overdose. Much of this is related to abuse of prescription drugs.The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University reported that Louisiana has a high crime rate based on heroin use, cautioning that this is strongly based on Louisiana’s laws against heroin possession and use. Nevertheless, it demonstrates that heroin use is a major issue in the state and contributes to the state’s extremely high crime and incarceration rates.
Louisiana Drug Laws
In an effort to combat the problem with prescription drug abuse, the state has laws about how people can get prescription medications. According to the Shreveport Times article, these include making sure that patients cannot withhold information about previous prescriptions from doctors, making sure doctors examine or have a relationship with a patient before prescribing anything, and requiring pharmacists to see identification before dispensing medicines.However, the article also states that Louisiana has no Good Samaritan or Rescue Drug laws to enable people to use lifesaving medicines like naloxone in case of an overdose of heroin or other opiates.
An estimated 309,000 people age 12 and older in Louisiana struggle with at least one substance use disorder, according to surveys from 2015-2016. This is about 8 percent of the Louisiana population, or 2 in 25 Louisiana residents. According to the DSM 5, a substance use disorder is a problematic pattern of substance use that results in clinically significant distress or impairment in at least two ways, within a year. Substance use disorders are diagnosed specific to the problematic substance, such as alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder.
Some of the diagnostic features may include:
- Substance use that is often more than intended (either in amount or duration)
- Craving to use the substance
- A longing or unsuccessful attempts to control or decrease substance use
- Excessive time spent obtaining the substance, using the substance, or recovering from substance use
- Substance use interfering with the fulfillment of work, school, or home obligations
- Continued substance use regardless of problems likely caused or worsened by the substance use, including social, interpersonal, physical, and psychological problems
- Stopping or decreasing important activities because of substance use
- Recurrent substance use in circumstances when use is physically hazardous
- Tolerance to the substance
- Withdrawal when stopping the substance
As in most of the United States, drug overdose deaths are a serious concern in Louisiana, and they have been increasing. From 2015 to 2016, the rates of drug overdose death in Louisiana increased by about 14.7 percent. This was a statistically significant increase in overdose deaths, meaning that the increase was greater than what could be reasonably caused by chance. About 996 people died from drug overdoses in Louisiana in 2016, and the CDC ranked Louisiana in its highest category of age-adjusted rates of drug overdose deaths, along with 23 other states
According to surveys from 2013-2014, about 2.9 percent of people over age 11 in Louisiana had illegal drug dependence or abuse in the past year, compared to about 2.6 percent of people over age 11 in the United States overall. Based on 2015-2016 surveys, an estimated 341,000 people age 12 and older in Louisiana have used at least one illegal drug in the past month. Marijuana was the most popular illegal drug, with an approximated 261,000 Louisiana residents over age 11 using marijuana in the past month, compared to about 147,000 using illicit drugs aside from marijuana in the past month. About 11 percent of the Louisiana population age 12 and up used marijuana in the past year, roughly 429,000 people
Misuse of pain relievers is also an enormous problem in Louisiana according to the 2015-2016 surveys, with approximately 175,000 people age 12 and older in Louisiana misusing them in the past year. Comparatively, 65,000 used cocaine in the past year and 8,000 used heroin in the past year. An estimated 32,000 Louisiana residents age 12 and up had a pain reliever use disorder in the past year. According to 2014-2015 surveys of people over age 11, rates of heroin use in the past year in Louisiana were about half of the rates of use in the United States overall (about 0.16 percent compared to about 0.33 percent).
However, according to 2015-2016 surveys, the most common substance use disorder in Louisiana is alcohol use disorder. Approximately 249,000 people over age 11 in Louisiana had an alcohol use disorder in the past year, which is about 80% of those with any substance use disorder in the past year. According to surveys from 2014-2015, about 6.6 percent of people over age 11 in Louisiana had an alcohol use disorder in the past year, compared to about 6.1 percent of people over age 11 in the United States overall.
Even larger numbers use alcohol in an unhealthy matter. Based on those 2015-2016 surveys, it is estimated that over 1 million Louisiana residents over age 11 have binged on alcohol in the past month alone, which is more than 26 percent of that population. For this survey, binge drinking was defined as consuming more than 4 drinks within 2 hours for men and more than 3 drinks in 2 hours for women. Binge drinking is a major concern as it increases many health risks, increases risk of killing oneself and others, and increases risk of violence. According to surveys from 2010-2014, about 7.5 percent of people age 21 and older in Louisiana had heavy alcohol use in the past month, compared to 6.7 percent of people age 21 and up in the United States overall.
Lack of treatment for substance use disorders is an enormous problem in Louisiana, according to those same 2015-2016 surveys. An estimated 289,000 people in Louisiana age 12 and older did not received needed treatment for substance use. About 229,000 of them needed but did not receive treatment for alcohol use, and about 91,000 needed but did not obtain treatment for illegal drug use. According to surveys from 2010-2014, about 7.1 percent of Louisiana residents aged 12 and older with alcohol abuse or dependence received treatment in the past year for their alcohol use, meaning that about 92.9 percent did not get needed treatment. Treatment rates for illegal drug abuse and dependence was slightly better, with about 16.6 percent of those aged 12 and older in Louisiana getting needed treatment and about 83.4 percent not getting needed treatment.
According to a 2009 report, substance abuse and addiction cost Louisiana over $1.3 billion in 2005, which equals about 17 percent of the state’s budget. This cost is about $320.83 per person in Louisiana. This enormous dollar amount includes the costs to the justice system, education system, healthcare, mental health and developmental disability programs, public safety, child/family assistance, and the state workforce. Additionally, Louisiana spent about $44 million, or about 0.54 percent of the state budget, specifically on the prevention of, treatment of, and research on substance abuse and addiction in 2005. This equals about $10.19 per person in Louisiana. Together, this totals over $1.4 billion on substance abuse prevention, treatment, research, and cost to state programs.
Substance use disorders are an enormous problem in Louisiana, and they can cause many negative consequences for the individuals with the disorder, their families and loved ones, and the broader community. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents use illegal substances every month, and that even more binge drink or use alcohol in other unhealthy ways. Illegal substance use and excessive alcohol use both put individuals at risk for negative side effects, legal and social repercussions, and development of substance use disorders. We must strive to increase the percentage of Louisiana residents who get the treatment they need for substance use disorders, so that they can achieve recovery and experience a better quality of life.
Credentials and Licensing for Treatment in Louisiana
Behavioral treatment facilities in Louisiana are certified by the Office of Behavioral Health. Centers certified by the state have consistent licensing standards whether they provide mental health services or addiction treatment.
On the other hand, individual addiction treatment and prevention counselors and other professionals are licensed by the Addictive Disorder Regulatory Authority.
Both of these organizations seek to make sure that treatment is research-based and demonstrates evidence of the ability to provide positive outcomes.
Drug Treatment and Support Organizations and References
There are some additional nonprofit and government treatment resources available in Louisiana, including:
- The Agape Center listing of drug treatment programs for local areas in Louisiana
- The Louisiana Behavioral Health Advisory Council for policy planning
- Listing of the Louisiana state districts and authorities that provide behavioral health services
- The Louisiana chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness
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