Health

Mississippi’s got a drug problem

According to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Mississippi is on the path to becoming “the most addicted state in the country.” The problem? Opioid drugs.

Opioids are pain relievers that, when abused, can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Mainstream opioids include: Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Codeine, Fentanyl and Heroin.

As of 2015, healthcare research firm IMS Health found Mississippi to be in the top six U.S. states prescribing opioids, per capita.

1. Alabama: 1.2 per person

2. Tennessee: 1.18 per person

3. West Virginia: 1.13 per person

4. Arkansas: 1.11 per person

5. Mississippi: 1.07 per person

6. Louisiana: 1.03 per person

John Dowdy is the Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. He says the majority of opioids are coming from prescribers.

“In 2016, there were 3,574,662 prescriptions written for opioids. The 3.5 million-plus prescriptions resulted in 201,224,298 dosage units being dispensed,” said Dowdy.

That’s enough opioids prescriptions to hand out 60-plus pills to every living man, woman and child in Mississippi.

A report by the Associated Press highlighted opioid theft in certain VA hospitals around the country. It begs the question: could a small part of Mississippi’s opioid problem be coming from the states VA hospitals?

Shannon Arledge is with the Veterans Integrated Service Network 16, which oversees eight VA facilities throughout Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana. He says while other states may have problems, Mississippi isn’t one of them.

“All of our facilities monitor and track opioids through a controlled substance inspection program. Each area within our facilities that contain controlled substances is randomly inspected on a monthly basis by our VA health care professionals who are not involved with dispensing controlled substances. To further ensure accountability, a 100 percent count of all controlled substances in our facilities is completed quarterly.”

In December 2016, Governor Phil Bryant signed an executive order that created a task force to address  the growing opioid and heroin abuse across the state.

According to Executive Order 1388, “the Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force shall meet as often as necessary and from time-to-time make recommendations to the Governor of how to best fight opioid and heroin abuse and how to prevent it in the future.”

Assisting Gov. Bryant’s new task force is the state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. The database, created in 2005, is used to recognize drug seekers who go from doctor-to-doctor for opioid prescriptions. It is also used to pinpoint unscrupulous prescribers.

With the program being around since 2005 and the number of opioid abusers continuing to grow, one has to question if PMP is actually working?

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