Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report detailing the rising rates of overdoses across America. Louisiana ranks high among the states most impacted by this public health crisis, and New Orleans is disproportionally affected, with overdose rates four to six times higher than the rest of the state.

In addition, our state has a huge gap in available care for those struggling with addiction. A 2019 survey released by Touro Infirmary found that the top concern for New Orleanians is the lack of available behavioral health care, and only 1.4% of people in New Orleans with addiction are currently receiving treatment. Orleans Parish Coroner Dwight McKenna states: “The number of drug related deaths continues to surpass the number of homicides in the city (of New Orleans).” This is significant, as Louisiana has the highest murder rate in the country.

Studies show that drug abuse and crime are highly correlated. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates the annual economic impact of alcohol abuse at $249 billion, and $193 billion for illicit drug use. While the economic impact of addiction across our city and state has not been calculated in recent years, the LSU Health Foundation of New Orleans estimated the cost of alcoholism in Louisiana at $3 billion annually in 1998 — and, given that addiction rates have since skyrocketed, one can assume the impact has as well.

We must remember that behind each of these statistics is a friend or loved one whose life has been impacted. Addiction is a highly treatable illness, and our understanding of the disease has come a long way. We must continue to identify solutions to this challenge and expand access to comprehensive treatment, allowing those in recovery to lead healthy, happy lives.

DAN FORMAN

NOLA Detox and Recovery Center

New Orleans