Filed Under:  Health & Wellness

Overdose deaths eclipse murders, coroner says

25th July 2016   ·   0 Comments

While Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse admitted recently that he is pleased with the city’s lower murder rate in 2016, he added that his office’s resources are still being stretched by the emergence of a new challenge: A significant rise in the number of overdose deaths involving opiods.

In a recent interview with, Rouse said that there had already been 65 opiod overdose deaths by May 21, compared with just 47 homicides over the same period. The numbers show that fatal overdoses from heroin and the more potent fentanyl, which Rouse said accounts for the growing toll, had already surpassed the total for all off 2015, when 63 deaths were attributed to opiod overdoses.

“I shudder to think what these numbers may look like in two to three years,” Dr. Rouse told

Rouse, who replaced longtime Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard who had held the post for more than four decades, shared the numbers with members of the New Orleans City Councils Criminal Justice Committee in mid-July.

Even with a surge in murders in the city as summer temperatures rose, Dr. Rouse said that the rate of fatal overdoes from opiods is keeping pace.

He said that he expects deaths from opiod overdoses to continue their upward trend.

A number of news outlets have reported that heroin has quietly become the drug of choice for many whites living in rural or suburban areas, replacing popular painkillers like oxytocin because it is less expensive and easier to access.

In other drug-related news, a new study has found that Blacks in New Orleans are arrested on marijuana charges far more often than their white counterparts. While the City of New Orleans has taken steps to lighten penalties for those caught with pot, those arrested still face long-term consequences, according to the study.

NOPD Supt. Michael Harrisson told that there have been fewer arrests on marijuana possession charges since police officers were given the option of issuing summonses for minor offenses. reported that the Vera Institute of Justice examined police data from the six-year period between 2010 and 2015 and found that 85 percent of those who were arrested in New Orleans for marijuana-related offenses excluding distribution are Black. According to the most recent Census Bureau data, the Crescent City is 58.2 percent Black.

This article originally published in the July 25, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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