State leaders partnering to combat opioid epidemic on Gulf Coast

Just over 160 fatal drug misuse cases on the Mississippi Gulf Coast have been reported since January of 2023.
Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 10:25 PM CDT
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HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Drug overdoses are skyrocketing across the Coast, and Mississippi leaders are developing a plan.

Just over 160 fatal drug misuse cases on the Mississippi Gulf Coast have been reported since January of 2023.

The monthly report activates a rapid alert by the Mississippi Public Health Institute.

“The rapid alert means there’s a particular area in the DPS region that has had a spike in overdoses,” said Jan Dawson with Mississippi Public Health Institute.

Dawson explained the Make Mississippi OD Free initiative is a multi-agency partnership designed for overdose prevention.

“That was in response to the Governor’s Task Force for opioids that began in the state in 2018. We have several years of data we collected,” Dawson said

The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics is one of the groups assisting those efforts.

“Harrison County has become the leader in the state of all 82 counties,” said Col. Steven Maxwell, director of the Bureau of Narcotics. “We went back and looked at the data we’ve been collecting for the past four years, and we’ve been able to identify that Mississippi has experienced 27 drug-related overdoses that involved Xylazine.”

Xylazine is a tranquilizer, and 16 of those deaths happened in Harrison County.

Non-fatal overdose ER visits are reported in all six of the coastal counties.

“It’s such an epidemic problem across the country for so many years now, and you’re starting to see an influx of fentanyl,” said Dr. Gregory Patino with Singing River Health Systems.

Patino said the hospital treats drug-related patients every day. Professionals are working to provide recovery options too.

“Then we do have to have some kind of backstop so when people do have an overdose, they can quickly be treated and get them in some kind of program to wean them off opioids over time,” Patino said.

Maxwell urges Mississippians to stop all sales and consumption of opioids. He emphasized that dealers cut fake pharmaceutical pills and lace narcotics.

“It’s no longer just Xanax. It could be Xanax laced with fentanyl. It’s no longer Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse,” Maxwell said.

The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics arrested over 1,200 people across the state who violated the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

“Just 2.5 mL is a lethal dose to 95% of the American population,” Maxwell said.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 22. The effort aims to collect old and unused drugs and or medications.

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