HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics is warning people about an influx of counterfeit drugs, specifically in and around the Pine Belt area.
The Bureau’s Hattiesburg District Office is awaiting toxicology reports but suspects at least eight to 10 overdose deaths in the last 50 days are related to the counterfeit pills.
Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell shares what is so harmful about counterfeit narcotics.
“Some of these folks, they might have started off with a valid prescription. They’ve developed an addiction, the doctor realizes it and no longer prescribes it for them so they’re turning to the black market to get them,” Tindell said. “It looks like a Xanax pill, but what it is, it’s laced with fentanyl, it might have methamphetamine, it has heroine in it.”
Hattiesburg Police Chief Peggy Sealy says officers are prepared for overdose situations. Officers carry NARCAN, an emergency drug overdose medication.
“Officers are issued NARCAN and go through training with NARCAN and also receive a pack how to dispense NARCAN,” Sealy said. “NARCAN has been used multiple times this year.”
But Sealy says the number of recent overdoses is alarming.
“I actually spoke with Forrest County Sheriff Charlie Sims this morning. We here in the Pine Belt law enforcement, we see an uptick and it’s a great concern,” Sealy said. “So we’re working together to combat this problem, and the main thing is to educate the public of what’s going on right now.”
Tindell says a task force recently seized a pill press in Jackson. He explains that with a pill press, dealers can make any material look like a regular prescription pill.
“But the problem is what they’re getting is not that pill they think they’re getting,” Tindell said. “It’s a counterfeit pill and it’s full of drugs that if they take it, even just one, it can result in an overdose death. Ad we’ve seen this trend increasing not just in the Pine Belt area, but statewide.”
Tindell says the statewide issue is not new, but any time a specific area sees a spike there is cause for concern.
“And I can tell you, statewide that is a trend, particularly in college towns and particularly in young people ages 18-25,” Tindell said.
Tindell says if you know someone struggling with addiction, reach out and get them the help they deserve and need.
“Don’t resort to buying black market pills to feed your addiction,” Tindell said. “Talk to your family members or call MBN. We’ll try to get you help through drug courts and get you better so you’re not taking something that’s going to cost you your life.”
If you know of any harmful drug activity or need help you can contact MBN at 1-800-844-6272.