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State drug overdoses at record level

Drug overdose deaths have reached a record high in Mississippi, according to a new report.

Our state reportedly suffered at least 220 deaths to overdose in 2016 and likely more, the most in Mississippi’s history.

We have also seen a rise in accidental overdoses. In the Oxford area, for instance, 911 received multiple calls for overdoses in the last half of April.

Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics director John Dowdy said the number of overdose deaths is likely higher, too, since not every coroner uses the state crime lab. He says the Mississippi health department puts the number of drug-poisoning deaths in the state last year at 274.

That’s far too many.

Opiates in multiple forms are a primary cause. The street drug heroin, an opiate, often makes the headlines but oxycodone and other pharmaceutical opiates have infiltrated our mainstream and the problem has become an epidemic.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has started a heroin task force but more work is needed. Pressure on physicians who actively dispense opiates when severe pain is not evident has increased but it is not yet strong enough.

We should also consider tougher laws on those who illegally distribute opiates.