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UM meeting details threat of opioids on a college campus

Opioid threat on college campuses are more immediate due to synthetic opioids

Hosting a meeting on the University of Mississippi’s campus Tuesday night, members of Stand Up Mississippi warned students and the public alike about the dangers of opioid narcotics.

Members of law enforcement, the Board of Pharmacy and opioid addiction survivors also warned about synthetic opioids on college campuses, which have the potential to cause more immediate danger.

Lt. John Harless of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety warned that opioids on college campuses are more likely to be synthetic.

“People are getting on the internet, going to these various sites and ordering things that there’s absolutely no quality control,” Harless said. “You’re taking the word of some guy in China that what I’m sending you is this drug, when nobody really knows what it is.”

Not only is there no verification for what is exactly being ordered, synthetic drugs can complicate treatment if there’s an overdose, as regular treatments might not apply to synthetic drugs.

Harless said the threats of synthetic opioids is a threat that goes along with non-synthetic opioids, which is still a major problem in the state of Mississippi.

According to Stand Up Mississippi, Mississippi ranks fifth in the nation for per capita annual opioid prescriptions. Of the 256 overdose deaths in Mississippi, 74 percent of those were from opiods.

“We see it as much in the growing area as much as we do in our bigger cities,” Harless said.

The meeting began with Harless walking attendees through the dangers of opioids, and then followed that with Angela Mallette telling her story of recovery, exemplifying recovering an opioid addiction is possible.

The meeting finished with some attendees sharing stories about loved ones they’ve lost from opioid addictions, and with a Q&A where a panel answered questions about treatment.

Director of Substance Abuse and EAP Services Melody Madaris described how simple Communicare, one option for treatment, can be.

“You call, and you ask to set up an intake appointment,” Madaris said. “If you’re in crisis, you’re going to get connected to someone immediately. We’re not even going to hang up the telephone.”

However, the panel acknowledged how difficult starting treatment can be, and Erin Cromeans, Assistant Director of Wellness Education, has taken steps to try and combat the stigma on UM’s campus that getting help is a sign of weakness.

Cromeans said her office helps all types of students – traditional, non-traditional, high school or returning students – get acclimated to navigating a campus sober.

“It’s not easy, on any college campus,” she said. “It’s definitely not easy on ours.”