2020 Saw a Sharp Rise in Overdose Deaths in Mississippi

2020 Saw a Sharp Rise in Overdose Deaths in Mississippi

2020 was a rough year in many respects, but especially in terms of public health. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by COVID-19, drug overdoses also skyrocketed across the country. Mississippi is no exception. In 2020, 443 Mississippians died of a drug overdose—a 59.9% increase from the year before. Of these overdoses, 324 were opioid related; that’s approximately 10.9 fatal opioid-involved overdoses per 100,000 people.

Many researchers draw a direct connection between the pandemic and this explosion in drug use and related harms; namely, the isolation, economic toll, and the stress caused by the pandemic has had devastating consequences, which likely led many people to use drugs and drink alcohol more often and in much higher amounts than previously. It may have also been a trigger that caused many people in recovery to relapse. But the pandemic isn’t the only problem identified in this recent scourge of overdoses.

Fentanyl in the Drug Supply

Additionally, there is the increasing prevalence of synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) in the drug supply, which are notoriously dangerous, even in small amounts. Fentanyl was involved in over a third of the fatal opioid overdoses in Mississippi in 2020.

While sometimes used as medication to manage severe pain, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are often manufactured illegally and cut into other, less potent drugs. Fentanyl has been found in heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, counterfeit painkillers, counterfeit benzodiazepines, and more. Though it is extremely dangerous–even in people with a relatively high opioid tolerance–fentanyl remains a popular adulterant in these substances because it is very cheap to produce, and a very small amount produces a powerful subjective effect.

Fentanyl rapid test kits are a valuable, potentially life-saving harm reduction tool that may help people that use drugs detect the presence of fentanyl in drugs they have purchased.

Opioid Prescriptions in Mississippi

Mississippi has a very high rate of prescription opioids being written: 76.8 prescriptions per 100 people, which is well above the national average of 51.4 as of 2018. While high prescription rates have proved to be correlated with high rates of overdose in other locations, this has thus far not been the case in Mississippi.

It is not uncommon for people prescribed opioids for legitimate medical reasons to develop an addiction. In some cases, someone may even overdose even when they are not intentionally misusing prescription opioids (i.e., taking too much medication by accident). In 2020, 52 overdoses in Mississippi involved prescription opioids.

Anyone that uses opioids or is around someone that uses opioids should learn how to respond to an opioid overdose.

Treatment for Addiction

Knowing how to respond to an overdose is crucial, but it may not be enough in many instances. Additionally, opioid use disorder (OUD) has many other serious and devastating consequences besides potential overdose.

Fortunately, OUD is a treatable condition that is covered by most insurance policies. Check the verification of benefits tool to see if your treatment is covered at Oxford Treatment Center or call an admissions navigator at .

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