Most Overdoses in Mississippi Caused by Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug misuse is a serious problem in the United States, and Mississippi is no exception. While the opioid-involved fatal overdose rate is much worse in its neighboring state of Tennessee, Mississippi doctors still write a significant amount more opioid prescriptions than the national average at 76.8 scripts per 100 persons, compared to the national rate of 51.4.

Prescription drugs are responsible for most of the fatal overdoses in the Magnolia State. Most people that admit to misusing prescription drugs say they obtain them from friends or family members. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, prescription medications are now the most abused drugs among children 12-13 years old, perhaps because they are more easily accessible than illicit substances.

Prescription drug misuse is a problem that affects all demographics; however, soldiers, veterans, and workers that have suffered injuries are at an elevated risk for developing a problem. Men are more likely to suffer a fatal overdose caused by prescription opioids than women, though this difference is shrinking. In Mississippi, between 2009 and 2019, overdose rates for women more than doubled from 35 to 88.

Lawmakers across the U.S. have been attacking the opioid problem, with some success. Opioid dispensing rates have steadily declined between 2012 and 2019. Many states—like Mississippi—have made the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone available at many pharmacies without a prescription and drafted Good Samaritan Laws that protect people that seek or provide medical assistance in the event of an overdose.

Many of the people that develop an opioid use disorder do so after suffering an injury and filling a prescription for a painkiller. Several large pharmaceutical companies have been accused of misleading the medical community about the dangers of prescribing these drugs. Purdue, the manufacturer of OxyContin, has had to pay billions of dollars in settlements for various lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic. Nationally, and in Mississippi, doctors have been prescribing these drugs less often to patients.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a significant obstacle in fighting the opioid epidemic, hindering much of the progress made over the past years. Between May 2019 to May 2020, overdose rates in Mississippi spiked 26%. Part of the problem may be individuals that are unable to see their physicians due to lockdowns turning to street drugs, according to Susan McCoy, executive director of the Mississippi Board of Pharmacy. Illicitly manufactured versions of prescription opioids are sometimes very high in fentanyl or other synthetic opioids, which are lethal even in very small amounts.

Opioids are dangerous and highly addictive. Fortunately, addiction is a treatable disease. Many people with substance use disorder are able to live fulfilling lives in recovery after they get the right help.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s not too late to turn your life around. Please reach out to an admissions navigator at . They can answer questions about Oxford Treatment Center and other American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) facilities and help you outline a path to long-term sobriety.

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