Prescription Drug Abuse A Growing Problem In South Mississippi

Published: Aug. 26, 2003 at 9:41 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2003 at 10:15 PM CDT
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A Gulfport narcotics officer says prescription drug abuse is quickly becoming an epidemic.

It doesn't get near the attention of illicit drugs like crack cocaine or ecstasy, but the growing trend of mixing powerful prescription pain killers can be more deadly.

Drug users share information about where to find unscrupulous doctors, physicians who are willing to write bogus prescriptions to make quick cash.

23 year old Jared Bishop was laid to rest Tuesday afternoon, three days after he overdosed on prescription drugs. A lethal combination of methadone and Xanax killed the young man.

He got the drugs prescribed to him, by an out of state doctor.

Narcotics police and the coroner say it's a deadly trend that desperately needs public awareness.

Family and friends mourned the death of Bishop at Floral Hills Cemetery.

His older brother reflected on the growing problem with prescription drugs that eventually killed Jared.

"He was a totally different person than he was about a year ago. But these drugs, they'll lie to you, they'll tell you they don't need help. You gotta force it on them," said Bran Bishop.

Pat Pope is a narcotics captain with the Gulfport police department. He says prescription drug abuse is quickly becoming an epidemic across the country.

"People don't perceive it as a threat. But it's very easy. It's very easy to kill yourself using these drugs," Pope explained.

Many powerful prescriptions were written in Jared Bishop's name by a doctor in Houston, Texas. Narcotics officers say the prescription abuse problem is fueled by a handful of unscrupulous doctors who are greedy and willing to write powerful prescriptions for drug abusers.

"They're going to Mobile, they're going to Houston, they're going to New Orleans. They're going wherever they can find a doctor who's unscrupulous who just wants to make some money. And it is a problem with these doctors. They're dirty doctors," said Pope.

The growing problem worries the coroner. There were 46 drug overdose deaths in Harrison County last year and already 29 this year.

"They're getting legal prescriptions from doctors who will write a script. And then they're selling them on the street and they're taking them. And it's killing them. And families need to wake up," warned coroner, Gary Hargrove.

The Bishop family can offer a painful testimony.

"You know, it's hard walking out on your little brother. Seeing him for the last time in a coffin right before they close it. That's a really hard thing to see. I'll never forget it," said Bran Bishop.

The coroner says mixing prescription drugs is dangerous. Powerful pain killers can act as a depressant on the respiratory system, so the user often passes out and then stops breathing.

By Steve Phillips