Opioid deaths and prescriptions dropping in Mississippi

The number of opioid deaths has gone down in the past year. Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director John Dowdy says they have seen a positive change in recent months.

Dowdy says the number of opioids being prescribed has gone down by roughly 20% while the number of Opioid-related deaths is down by a little more than 12%.

OD Deaths

2017 – 74% of deaths were Opioid-related

2018 – 61% of deaths were Opioid-related

Opioid Prescriptions

2016 – more than 200 million dosage units dispensed in MS

2018 – 145.7 million dosage units dispensed in MS (20% decrease)

“This is significant because of the regulations that have been implemented we are running a good track at potentially keeping people from getting addicted from over-prescribing,” said Dowdy.

Mississippi still has a high number of prescriptions, but those have gone down.

“In 2016 we had 62 of the 82 counties in Mississippi that had more prescriptions than they had people living in the county,” said Dowdy. “In 2018, that number dropped to 21 out of 82. That’s a good metric right there.”

Dowdy said another issue that they have seen in the state is the number of pharmacy burglaries that occur.

“We’ve had a 58% reduction of pharmacy burglaries over the last two years. He says this is due in part to regulations put in place by various pharmacy associations and along with the Bureau of Narcotics.”

Dowdy believes the only way to keep the positive trend going is to never let up.

“We keep it going by never letting up on the gas,” said Dowdy. “We are going to continue to move forward, staying on top of this, looking at the numbers, and just continuing the dialogue. I think that has been one of the bigger benefits of this is the fact that we’ve opened up a new dialogue in Mississippi to talk about addiction and to educate people about what is going on with the opioid problem.”

He adds that the department will need to expand their focus soon.

“Opioids are a legal source of narcotics and so it is easier to address that potentially from a regulatory standpoint,” said Dowdy. “The illicit narcotics that come in from out of state, most of them from Mexico, it is going to take effort by the federal government to start addressing that issue. We are basically going 24/7 trying to address the drug issues in communities all across the state. Methamphetamine is the drug that they are seeing in the largest volume currently.”

He added that they will ask the legislature for additional funding for more narcotics agents to help with the workload next year.

Another area that has seen positive response comes from a project that was launched in August of 2017.  the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Public Safety, and the Bureau of Narcotics partnered together to distribute Naloxone, to law enforcement officers across the state. To date, Dowdy said 82 lives have been saved in Mississippi, including the lives of three police officers.

Naloxone use by EMS

17% decrease in administration from 2017 to 2018

33% decrease in administration from the 1st quarter to the 4th quarter of 2018

“The kind of drugs that are out there now, particularly with the fentanyl, that’s what has caused the most problems for many law enforcement officers,” said Dowdy. “So, having law enforcement officers equipped with it when their partner gets into a jam or gets that accidental exposure, having the drug there is a life-saving measure.”