Thursday, December 23, 2021

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Addiction Treatment in New Orleans, Louisiana

Nicknamed The Big Easy, New Orleans is the largest city in Louisiana, and an important port town in the United States.  Rich in both French and Spanish Creole culture, this colorful, multi-lingual city is known for its cuisine, jazz music, and annual city-wide celebrations which attract tourist from all around the world. With a population of 407,940, New Orleans boasts a diverse demographic of 60.2% African American, 31% White, 4.9% Asian, 5.3% Hispanic. At least 1.7% of the population is a combination of at least 2 races.

If you live in New Orleans, and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.

In 2005, New Orleans was nearly decimated due to Hurricane Katrina. In the years since, the industrious and hopeful people of New Orleans have worked to rebuild their city and recover from the devastation Katrina left behind. Unfortunately, New Orleans has also had to face another devastating  epidemic which has claimed the lives of many – heroin addiction.

Opiates such as Heroin, Fentanyl and prescription drugs represent the most sought out drugs in New Orleans, followed by

Although New Orleans’ is known for it’s festive culture and lax open container laws, it’s ranked the seventh lowest state when it comes to alcohol poisoning deaths, below the national average. Alcohol-related deaths such as drunk driving incidents are right on par with the national average, despite millions of dollars of federal grants being applied to programs to lower those incidents.


Due to it’s port location on the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans has become a transportation hub and distribution center for illicit substances. it is the second busiest container port of he gulf coast, and in the top 5 busiest ports in the US. Smuggling occurs both in cargo containers and ships, and on passenger and cruise ships traveling through the Gulf of Mexico. Not only is the port in Louisiana a main trafficking hub, but the interstates leading in and out of New Orleans is also a contributing mode of transportation for these illegal drugs. New Orleans popularity as a party destination for tourists also plays a part in the mass amounts of drug trafficking, distribution and consumption. Recreational drug and alcohol abusers from around the world seek to partake in the drug market, increasing the demand for drugs, and bringing gang activity and violent crimes up with it. Mexican criminal groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs are the main culprits in drug trafficking in Louisiana, although there has been an increase in asian gang activity throughout New Orleans, which is directly attributed to drug distribution. 


New Orleans has been said to have the highest murder rate in the country, but in recent years, the number of accidental drug-related deaths such as opioid overdoses surpassed the number of murders, purportedly for the first time in history. In 2016, 78% of the 166 drug-related deaths were due to opioids, and 29% were linked to the deadly synthetic drug Fentanyl. Fentanyl claimed the lives of 48 people in 2016 – four times more than the previous year. The main consumers of opioids including heroin, fentanyl and prescription pain killers in New Orleans are men, accounting for 80% of drug-related deaths.

The opioid epidemic also leads to other troubling issues for the Big Easy; namely violent crimes. While 2017 saw it’s first dip in murders in ages, it still ranks at the top of the list of highest murder rate in the country, and shootings are on the rise. Local law enforcement has seen an uptick in gang violence fueled by the opiate trade, which is further stimulated by tourists and those from wealthier neighborhoods participating in the purchase and consumption of drugs. Other violent crimes include car and house theft, assault, and sexual crimes. New Orleans Police estimate that as many as 75% of homicides are drug related, and can be attributed to street gangs involved in distribution. Many of the homicides are due to drug debts and territorial disputes.


Fentanyl is an incredibly potent, addictive, and deadly synthetic opiate that has been gaining popularity nationwide over the past several years. While it is legally prescribed to those with extreme chronic pain, it is rapidly becoming a drug of choice, due to the extreme sense of euphoria one gets when using it. Fentanyl can be taken orally, or used as a transdermal patch, though the most common way for addicts to abuse it is via injection. While it may be prescribed by doctors in extreme situations, it is reserved for those whose pain is uncontrollable by other methods, and it is closely regulated. Addicts and substance abusers are able to obtain Fentanyl though street dealers, who have different modes of acquiring the substance. Fentanyl is primarily produced in China, and has made its way onto the black market in the U.S. via Mexican and other drug groups.

Fentanyl’s extreme addictive qualities come from its quick release of endorphins – a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that  provides a soothing feeling and relieves pain and stress. In the absence of extreme pain, the endorphins released cause a feeling of euphoria and pleasure. When the fentanyl high has warn off, withdrawal symptoms present themselves. Fentanyl withdrawal can be extremely unpleasant but is possible with the help of detox professionals.

Fentanyl is up to 8 times more potent than heroin. Because of this, heroine can be laced with fentanyl to increase its efficacy, often without the users knowledge. Because of the potency, fentanyl can be deadly, even for first time users. Those who do not have an opiate tolerance may not be able to handle even the smallest amount of fentanyl, and fall victim to overdose.

Side effects of fentanyl use may include:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Slow Breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Itchy Skin
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Seizures


Heroin is a highly addictive and commonly abused opiate, synthesized from morphine. A heroin high usually involves rapid feelings of extreme euphoria and pleasure. called a “rush”, followed by a warm, calm feeling, heavy limbs and drowsiness. Heroin can be found in a number of forms, including powder (white or brown), a sticky black substance known as “black tar” and in solid dark chunks. Heroin can be smoked, snorted, or injected. Paraphernalia often connected with heroin include lighters, spoons, and syringes.

Immediate side effects of heroin are similar to that of Fentanyl. The user may also exhibit

  • Slowed heart rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Uncontrolled “nodding”, where the user dozes off and awakes, even if attempting to perform a task, or during conversation.

Prolonged  effects of heroin use or addiction include:

  • Needle or “track” marks and bruising at injection sites, often on arms or legs.
  • Skin abscesses
  • Liver and Kidney disease
  • Collapsed veins at injection sites
  • Heart problems
  • Infection

Heroin abuse lowers the users inhibitions and opens up the potential for risky behavior. Heroin users are at risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis from sharing needles and engaging in unprotected sex. Because of heroins extreme addictive qualities, users may engage in criminal activity to procure their next fix. It is both a psychologically and physically addictive substance, and withdrawal symptoms can be severe and painful, often causing users to chase the next high. It can be difficult to gauge the potency of heroin or to know if it’s been laced with another drug such as fentanyl, so risk of overdose is high, even for those who have built up a tolerance.

Signs of heroin overdose include

  • Breathing slowed to a dangerous rate
  • Losing consciousness
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Coma
  • Death

In January of 2017, the Louisiana Department of Health issued a standing order approving Naloxone, or Narcan to be available for purchase in New Orleans without a prescription. Narcan can reverse the effects of heroin overdose if it is caught in time and administered in the proper doses. Now anyone over 18 years old in New Orleans can get Narcan over the counter from participating pharmacies.

Louisiana law enforcement takes the opioid epidemic seriously. Heroin possession is a felony crime punishable by a minimum of 4 years hard labor, up to 10 years without probation, and/or a fine of up to $5000. Distribution of heroin can come with a sentence of life at hard labor without probation, and/or a fine of up to $50,000. Fines and sentences can double for sale to a minor.

If you or someone you know is addicted to heroin or other opiates, now is the time to get help. Give us a call now to start the road to recovery.


Medical marijuana is currently legal in New Orleans, albeit with rigid guidelines. Those on the approved medical list must be diagnosed with

  • Cancer
  • A severe form of Cerebral Palsy
  • Seizure Disorders such as epilepsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Another approved medical disorder or disease

Medical marijuana is available in tinctures or medicinal oils, pills, sprays and topical applications, but full plants or solid buds that can be smoked are not permitted. Growing marijuana in New Orleans is outlawed, except for by approved growers at the LSU and Southern University Agricultural Centers.

Although recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Louisiana, the penalties of minimal possession are often reduced to fines, while intent to distribute may come with a felony charge and jail time.

While you may not get a lengthy jail sentence for abusing marijuana, there are many other reasons to stop today. While marijuana is often viewed as a harmless recreation substance, that view can be misleading. Those with marijuana abuse histories are 3x more likely to develop heroin addictions than those who have never used marijuana. It has also been linked to an increase in abuse of various other substances, including methamphetamine, alcohol, and cocaine.

Side effects of marijuana use include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • increased heart rate
  • Coughing
  • Dry Mouth
  • Slow movement and thinking
  • impaired judgement and memory

Prolonged use of marijuana may lead to lung problems and pulmonary issues, as well as mental heath issues such as depression and anxiety.


Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that has been a popular drug in the US since the 70’s. When cocaine is cooked down with a base agent such as baking soda or ammonia, it forms a hard rock that can be heated and smoked, resulting in crack cocaine (also known as crack). Crack is a  cheaper and more accessible alternative to pure cocaine, and is used more frequently in urban areas. Crack cocaine lends itself to initial feelings of euphoria and energy.  It is possible to become addicted to crack cocaine or even overdose after just one use. Since the high is short-lived, people who use crack are often left chasing the high in a cycle of using, crashing, and seeking their next fix.
Short-term side effects of crack cocaine include:

Sensitivity to light and sound
Increased heart rate

Prolonged or consistent use of crack cocaine can lead to severe weight loss and malnutrition due to loss of appetite, auditory hallucinations, movement disorders, sudden heart attack, stroke, and potentially death. Crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms often include extreme depression, but it is possible to recover from addiction with help from experienced professionals.


If you or a loved one is battling substance abuse or addiction, there is hope. New Orleans has treatment options available for those looking to kick their addiction once and for all. Take a look over our Frequently Asked Questions page to get more answers on rehab and the rehabilitation process.


The first step to every treatment program is undergoing an assessment to determine red flags of substance abuse. Assessments can be valuable in determining if treatment is needed, and if so, what type of treatment is most appropriate. Some assessments are available online or over the phone, but many programs perform assessments on site. Seeing a treatment professional in person can provide you with insights online assessments cannot.


Pre-intake is the process before substance abuse treatment when the prospective patient answers questions about their drug habits. Pre-Intake is also the time to ask any questions you may have regarding the specific treatment facility and plan, treatment costs and length of time, and treatment in general. There are several different treatment types, either falling under Inpatient or Outpatient, each with different benefits and drawbacks. Addiction recovery is most successful when the patient is involved in a plan that suits their needs and sticks to it, so it’s important to understand what to expect, and to see your specific treatment plan through fully.


The intake processes is different for every facility, but there are common elements you can expect from most treatment centers. During intake, an intake professional or therapist will ask you more questions regarding your addiction or substance abuse behaviors. This evaluation will provide them with information regarding substance abuse habits such as length and frequency of use, whether addiction is present, and if so, how severe it is. The rehabilitation officer may ask questions about your personal history, substance abuse, relationships, living situation, employment status, mental and physical health. Medical professionals may perform additional evaluations to determine medical history, and ways substance abuse may be affecting your physical health. All of this information will assist in determining what form of treatment will be most successful for your recovery.


Detoxification is a major step in recovery. This is the process of cleansing the body of all remaining illicit substances, in the first step to living a clean life. Your treatment plan may involve detoxing in a detox facility, or a home detox. Depending on the substance or substances involved, it is typically a good idea to detox under the care and supervision of medical or detox professionals. Detoxification is different for every person, and every substance has its own accompanying withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxing from opiates such as heroin and fentanyl can be painful and exhausting, although some detox facilities provide medication such as Buprenorphine to ease the pain make the process more bearable.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Pain in the bones and muscles
  • Insomnia
  • Shakes
  • Chills
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Cramps
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme craving for the drug

While detox can be a brutal process, it’s important to remember that the symptoms will eventually subside. Heroin withdrawal symptoms typically set in within 6-12 hours of using the last dose and last 5-10 days, peaking at the 2-3 day mark.


There are two main forms of treatment: Inpatient and Outpatient. Inpatient treatments are more intensive forms of care, supplying patients with round-the-clock care in either a hospital or treatment facility. Some inpatient treatment programs are luxury facilities that operate more like a spa or resort. Whatever form of treatment you settle on will likely involve several hours of group and/or individual therapy, and may also include physical exercise and spiritual programs as well. Many treatments focus on dual-diagnosis or co-occuring disorders, such as bi-polar, depression, anxiety, and OCD.

Residential Treatment Center (RTC)

Residential Treatment Centers, or RTC’s are the most intensive form of inpatient treatment, and are often recommended for those addicted to opiates such as heroin or other addictive drugs like meth or crack cocaine. RTC’s are most successful in detoxing and rehabilitating those with drug addictions. Residential Treatment Centers are live-in facilities which provide safe, supportive, drug-free living environments, away from family and friends, allowing the patient to focus solely on their recovery.

While enrolled in an RTC, the patient may be expected to take part in group and individual therapy, including 12 step programs. There may also be specialized therapy for co-occurring illnesses, family or relationship counseling, psychiatric visits, spiritual sessions such as prayer or meditation practices, and physical exercise. The duration of RTC’s varies from 30 days to 12 months depending on a myriad of factors, including insurance coverage and patient needs. Contact with the outside world is usually limited to ensure immersion in recovery and the removal of temptation and stress that often leads to relapse.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

Partial Hospitalization Programs are similar to RTC’s, although the patient has the ability to return home in the evenings. Most PHPs involve individual and group therapy, as well as 12-step meetings for 6-8 hours per day, 5 days a week until the program is completed. These programs are a good option for those with safe, supportive home environments, or those who are unable to attend inpatient programs for financial or other reasons. PHP programs can also be an aftercare stepping-stone option for those who have already attended an RTC.


Outpatient treatments offer more freedom than inpatient treatments, but as such they can be less successful at maintaining recovery and see a higher relapse rate. Outpatient programs are a good option for those who cannot enroll in inpatient programs for any number of reasons, perhaps due to job or family obligations, or lack of insurance/funds. Outpatient programs offer the freedom to continue with ones day-to-day, while still providing the support of consistent group and individual therapy. Those who participate in outpatient programs should have a strong desire to kick their addiction, as there is less supervision from treatment professionals, and more influence from the outside world present. Outpatient programs can also be an option for those seeking additional therapy after completing an inpatient program.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Intensive Outpatient Programs also known as IOP’s offer the support of inpatient therapy, but with more freedom and less of a time commitment. Typical outpatient programs consist of 10-12 hours of group and individual therapy per week – just a few hours per day, a few days a week. This allows the individual to continue their daily obligations with minimal interruption, attending school or work during the day and seeking counseling in the mornings or at night as is fitting. IOP programs work best when the patient has already attended a detox facility, and can be implemented on its own, or as an aftercare to those who have already attended an RTC or PHP.


Treatment is an important part of any addicts road to recovery, but it doesn’t end once treatment is completed. Aftercare or “Follow-Up” is an important step to re-integrating back into daily life after treatment, and is essential to preventing relapse. Most addiction treatments, both inpatient and outpatient, will work with you to come up with an aftercare plan. In treatment, you will learn tools to keep you sober, and your aftercare plan will help keep those tools sharp. Aftercare plans might include one-on-one therapy sessions, 12-step meetings, family counseling, continuing specialized support groups or group therapy sessions, and/or psychiatrist appointments to maintain medical treatment. If methadone, buprenorphine, or other medications were used to treat withdrawal symptoms or for the duration of treatment, the prescription may be revisited and it may either be determined it is in the patients best interest to continue use, or they may be weaned off the medications during the aftercare phase. Aftercare typically lasts anywhere from a couple of months to a year, depending on the patients needs.


Sober Living Homes or “Halfway Houses” are one more way to prevent relapse after treatment is complete. Sober living communities are comprised of recovering addicts all working to maintain sobriety in their daily lives. Living in a drug-free environment can provide support for all the community members, while establishing a sense of community and camaraderie, as each member can relate to the struggles and successes of addiction recovery.  Each sober living environment is different. Some sober living homes are staffed, while other rely on it’s members to maintain accountability. Most sober communities have rules and guidelines in place to prevent relapse and ensure the continued drug-free lifestyle of it’s residents. Rules may include check-ins, mandatory meetings, random drug tests, and/or curfews. Some sober living homes  require it’s residents to be employed, pay rent, complete chores around the house, and contribute to the community in other ways.

Sober living homes are a good option when it comes to transitioning back into day-to-day life after treatment. Some find that it helps to reduce the temptation to return to old habits that may lead to relapse. Having others around that are also in the addiction recovery process can be helpful for those who may otherwise be tempted to return to friends, family members, or living situations that may tempt them to use again.