The opioid epidemic that began in the 1990s has left no part of America untouched. That includes Mississippi, which has seen a major increase in opioid deaths as well as drug abuse across the state. While these numbers can be disheartening, there is ample reason for optimism because a wide array of treatment facilities exist to help Mississippi families and people who are trapped by drug addiction recover.
Drug Overdoses Are Rising Everywhere
Before taking a closer look at this state’s drug use, it is worth taking a brief examination of the national problem in order to fully contextualize Mississippi’s problem within America’s broader drug overdose challenge.
Sadly, this problem is only growing. A recent report showed that 2020 was a particularly difficult year in terms of drug overdose deaths, with fatalities increasing by 30%. More than 93,000 people died of an overdose during this time period, and increases were recorded in a variety of drug uses, including opioid-based drugs, cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs.
The good news is that this is not an unseen crisis. In previous years, policymakers did not fully grasp the extent of the opioid problem, but that is no longer the case. Additional governmental resources are being used in order to stem the tide of rapidly increasing overdose deaths and crack down further on bad actors who inappropriately prescribe medication. This is happening across the country, including in Mississippi.
Mississippi Overdose Deaths
Information provided by the Mississippi State Department of Health has shown the extreme challenges created by drug overdose deaths in the state. The most recent data from 2020 has not yet been made available, but previous years’ data has showed the following information.
In 2011, 279 people died of drug overdoses in Mississippi. That number gradually increased virtually every year, hitting 393 in 2019, which was an increase of more than a third. The greatest year-over-year increase occurred between 2018 and2019 when deaths increased from 315 to 393. This is highly problematic and has policymakers nervous about what the 2020 year-over-year increase will be.
The most rapid increase, termed “the new challenge,” is the rise of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Fentanyl is a cheaply made synthetic opioid. When used appropriately, it can be a useful tool for pain relief. However, it is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Unfortunately, it is also easy to make, cheap to buy, and highly addictive. Many drugs are cut with fentanyl, meaning that they have fentanyl added in to create a stronger high for users.
Fentanyl is extremely dangerous and deadly, and the data from Mississippi bears this out. Consider the following:
- In 2011, Mississippi reported 49 overdoses to prescription overdoses. That number increased to 91 by 2019, a near doubling, with an increase of five deaths from 2018.
- In 2011, Mississippi lost one person due to a heroin death. In 2018, that number was 39. By 2019, that number increased to 77.
- In 2011, Mississippi reported 16 deaths due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. By 2019, that number had increased to 139. In 2018, that number was only 76, leading to concerns that fentanyl was driving the trend of drug overdose deaths.
Tragically, overall deaths in Mississippi are increasing across all classes of drugs, with the greatest year-over-year increase being reported in deaths from opioids. From 2018 to 2019, the following number of deaths were reported:
- Opioid overdose deaths: 177 in 2018, 244 in 2019
- Psychostimulant overdose deaths: 99 in 2018, 192 in 2019
- Benzodiazepine overdose deaths: 57 in 2018, 76 in 2019
- Cocaine overdose deaths: 30 in 208, 45 in 2019
It is also worth highlighting that the age, gender, and race of individuals that have overdosed on drugs in Mississippi are not reflective of the state as a whole. In terms of age, a plurality of the deaths has occurred in the 35-44 age group with 27.5% of all overdoses hitting people in that age range. The 45-54, 55-64, and 25-34 groups were all bunched together, with overdoses respectively hitting 20.4%, 19.8%, and 18.3% of those age groups.
The gender breakdown showed that this is more of a male problem than a female one: 63.6% of all overdoses affect men. This trend lines up with other similar trends. For example, in Mississippi and across the rest of the nation, men are more likely to die by suicide.
Even more interesting is the racial breakdown: 84% of all overdoses hit white individuals in the state, 15.5% hit African-Americans, and another 0.5% hit other groups. This represents a stark difference in terms of the overall racial makeup of the state, which shows that 59.1% of the state is white and 37.8% of the state is Black.
The relatively diverse nature of the overdose death highlights a rather painful truth for policymakers and individuals who are addicted to drugs or know someone who is. Overdoses in Mississippi are not isolated to one drug. Indeed, they present a rather diverse array of drugs that are increasing overdose deaths.
Drug Hospitalizations in Mississippi
Data on hospitalizations in Mississippi is only available throughout 2017, but this information likewise shows a disturbing trend. In 2017:
- 4,036 people visited Mississippi emergency rooms for an opioid-related issue, an average of 11 per day. This represented a more than 50% increase since 2014.
- The total cost of these hospitalizations was over $320 million, an increase of 72.7% since 2014.
- The reason for these hospitalizations and emergency room visits varied, with general “dependence” being classified as the most likely reason that an individual visited a Mississippi emergency room or hospital. That reason was followed by adverse effects, abuse, positioning, or “unspecified use.”
- The geographic breakdown of these visits also revealed striking patterns: 54.2% of all of these visits occurred in “non-metro” areas, meaning that they occurred in areas that were largely confined to rural Mississippi. That was followed by hospitals in Jackson (17.1%), Gulfport-Biloxi (15%), Hattiesburg (7.3%), and Memphis (6.4%).
Despite the fact that men were more likely to die of overdoses, more women were diagnosed than men, indicating possible undertreatment and underutilization of opioid health resources among men.
Mississippi Response to Drug Overdoses
Mississippi, like all other states, has taken a series of public policy changes towards the rapidly rising increase of overdoses. These include a variety of measures.
Like many states, Mississippi has created a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This is a database that any doctor, medical facility, or pharmacy is required to use before prescribing patients certain drugs, such as opioids. It was designed in order to stop people from “doctor shopping,” meaning that they would visit multiple doctors in order to obtain opioids that they could then use for the purposes of getting high. Databases like these have been used across the country with the explicit goal of getting more people into treatment and preventing the misuse of opioids. This has also had the effect of lessening unnecessary opioid prescriptions.
Mississippi has also issued a standing order that allows pharmacists to dispense naloxone on demand. Naloxone is a nasal-based drug that can be administered to someone who is overdosing on opioids. It acts immediately to block the deadly impacts of opioids on an individual who has used them, and if it is administered in time, it can reverse an overdose and help someone recover. Since the drug is a nose spray and has no ill side effects, it can be made available to anyone who fears losing someone to an overdose.
The state also implemented a Good Samaritan law. In many cases, individuals use heroin or other illegal drugs together. Before the new law, this created major problems: If one person would overdose, the others would not call 911 for fear of being arrested for using drugs. In response, Mississippi and many other states implemented a Good Samaritan law. This law holds that any individual who calls 911 to help someone who is overdosing cannot be arrested for using drugs in that instance. Such a law is designed to specifically protect someone who does the right thing and helps a person get the medical help they need. In that situation, instead of being arrested, drug users would likely be offered assistance to access a variety of treatment options that exist in the state.
Mississippi also launched “Stand Up, Mississippi,” a comprehensive campaign and website designed to help people access addiction prevention resources and get the help they need. The website contains an array of information, including:
- Information and resources about opioids
- Training on naloxone and information on how people can request presentations for their group, school, or place of work
- Links to find treatment facilities nearby
- Prevention information, including access to experts in the subject, and ways to dispose of older prescription medication
- Information on a variety of initiatives that are being run throughout the state, including opioid workforce awareness initiatives
- A series of stories from individuals who were once addicted to opioids but have since experienced a full recovery thanks to taking advantage of the treatment options offered in the state
Treatment Options in Mississippi
While the above statistics obviously paint a challenging picture, there is still reason to be hopeful about the prospect of an addicted individual making a full and complete recovery. There are ample treatment resources in the state. As noted by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, these facilities can provide a comprehensive array of services and be covered by commercial or public insurance. Furthermore, the facilities are regulated by the state in order to protect patient safety and ensure best practices with current law.
The Role of Therapy
Therapy can go a long way in helping people to understand why they may have chosen to use drugs in the first place. This knowledge can help a professional to choose the right kind of treatment when it comes to helping an individual choose a path that is less reliant on drugs. Therapy treatments include diagnosing underlying mental health issues as well as individual, group and family therapy options. Each of these therapy types offers a number of different strategies within them, many of which have high success rates in helping to overcome drug dependency.
If you live in Mississippi and are in need of comprehensive drug treatment assistance, check out the services offered at the various Defining Wellness Centers locations. At Defining Wellness, we have decades of experience that have shown us the best way to help individuals who are trapped by addiction. We want to help you recover and lead a full life. We have helped thousands of Mississippi residents overcome their addiction and commit to sobriety. Don’t wait to get the assistance you need. Call today at 1-855-790-9303.