In the Arena: Doctor explains what makes opioids dangerous

NEW ORLEANS -- Opioid addiction is a crisis on the national level. And, Louisiana is not immune.

"At the most basic level, an opioid is a painkiller," says Dr. Ross Deleonardo of the LSU Health Sciences Center.

Dr. DeLeonardo joined host John Young for a discussion about the dangers of opioids in this month's (July's) episode of In the Arena.

"From opium poppies, we are able to get opium and also morphine. So, the painkillers--the opioids--come from that source," he explains.  "The synthetic opioids--which are kind of lab-created versions of the materials that come from the opium poppy--those are extremely powerful."

An example of synthetic opioids is fentanyl. In June, Houma police responded to several overdoses and found a stash of fentanyl large enough to kill 14,000 people.

Deleonardo told John Young that illegal opioids are not the only cause of the crisis.

"There is definitely an above average amount of opioids being prescribed in Louisiana," he pointed out. Over-prescribing opioids can cause problems for patients when the prescription runs out.

"You can cut off the supply from the doctor side. But, that does not mean there is no supply of opioids." says Deleonardo. "People go to the street."

For the entire interview, watch the above video.

In the Arena with John Young airs the first Sunday of every month at 6:30 a.m. on WGNO.

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