- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Oct. 3

The Clarion-Ledger on opioid and heroin addiction in Mississippi:

The statistics are terrifying.

The number of opioid prescriptions in Mississippi outnumber the number of people living here.

Nationally, the state ranks fifth in per capita opioid consumption, trailing Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia and Arkansas.

The number of Americans now using prescription painkillers (38 percent) outnumber those using tobacco (31 percent).

Since 2001, half a million Americans have died from drug overdoses - more than the entire city populations of Miami, Atlanta or Cleveland.

Despite the high number of opioid prescriptions in our state, we have so far been spared the scourge that has swept through other parts of the country, where opioid and heroin addiction has reached epidemic proportions. However, the warning signs are here, and if we continue to ignore them, Mississippi could one day soon face the same kind of explosive addiction and death rates as other states.

“It is coming at us like a tsunami” is how pharmacist John Storey describes the heroin and opioid epidemic in Mississippi. He has seen this kind of drug abuse increase consistently and rapidly over recent years.

Dr. Randy Easterling, who sits on the state Board of Medical Licensure, said much of the increase has been fueled by drug manufacturers who continue to push opioid-based pain medications. This push comes despite more and more studies showing such pain relievers provide little more relief than a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen, according to Dr. Scott Hambleton, medical director of the Mississippi Physician Health Program.

And the numbers of opioid and heroin addiction and related deaths we are seeing in Mississippi are likely underreported, according to John Dowdy, incoming director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. So are the number of infants being impacted by this disaster, says Dr. Mobolaji Famuyide, medical director for the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Mississippi has seen great success in battling other threatening drug-related issues in the past, most notably the spread of crystal meth. When laws were changed to make it harder to obtain the over-the-counter drugs used in the manufacturing of crystal meth, the number of those addicted to and who died from the drug dropped significantly.

Solving the opioid problem, however, will be much more of a challenge. That’s why Mississippi doesn’t need to wait until it reaches epidemic levels here. Much can and should be done immediately.

So, what can we do? Here are a few ideas:

Require health care providers to check the state’s prescription monitoring program before prescribing narcotics. This will help doctors identify patients who are prescription shopping or who are getting prescriptions for non-diagnosed pain management.

Look at ways to increase funding for treatment to help those who are on this deadly cycle. Look to our congressional delegation - particularly Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran - to fight for federal funds. And work with private institutions and nonprofits to seek grant money and utilize combined resources.

Set up a state task force of doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement and patient advocates who can bring commonsense ideas on curbing this problem. This issue is not solved just within law enforcement or the health care community. It will take a broad, coordinated approach.

Thankfully we do not see the effects of this horrible problem as prevalently throughout our state as in other states; however, all you have to do is talk to someone who has been impacted by it, who has seen a loved one fight it or who is battling it every day to get an idea of how scary our future could be if we do not act now.

Online:

http://www.clarionledger.com

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Oct. 4

The Oxford Eagle on droughts and burn bans in the state:

October is historically the best weather month of the year in Mississippi, unless we need rain.

And that is the dilemma Oxford and the region face this year since the 15-day forecast has only sunny skies and no rain predicted for North Mississippi.

The latest U.S. drought monitor, updated the last week of September, reveals that most of Lafayette (including Oxford), Panola and Yalobusha Counties are now in a state of severe drought, while other nearby areas are experiencing moderate drought.

That’s why the Lafayette County Supervisors have issued a burn ban from now until at least the first week of November. The area’s dry conditions make the burn ban necessary for the protection of land and property.

A burn ban means residents are not allowed to burn outdoor debris. They will face a fine of up to $500 if they burn ban is violated.

Almost a dozen other Mississippi counties in Mississippi have enacted burn bans so far this fall. But according to the drought monitor, no area in the region is facing the level of drought that we are facing.

And no rain relief is in sight.

Online:

http://www.oxfordeagle.com

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Oct. 5

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on illegal drugs in the state:

A retail black market for many kinds of illegal drugs long ago established itself in the United States, and the skill of drug makers, like legitimate enterprises, constantly produces new products that are dangerous and against the law.

The arrest last week of three men near Tupelo brought to light the presence of a narcotic that is a variation on marijuana, a substance confiscated reported as an illegal operation as early as 1936.

The newest variation on what was called “Mexican hemp” in the early days is called “marijuana wax” one of the forms of butane hash oil or BHO, so-named because liquid butane is used in the extraction process.

Law enforcement reports the drug can range in consistency from a translucent oil to a waxy semi-solid to a clear hard solid similar to hard candy.

Large quantities of the drug were confiscated during a Tupelo arrest, and police say they are keeping a close eye on the situation to ensure the drug doesn’t become rampant throughout the region.

“I wouldn’t call it widespread,” said Capt. Marvis Bostick, commander of the North Mississippi Narcotics Unit. “I would say that it is starting to trickle in, and we hope it doesn’t grow.

“It’s not something that we have really had to deal with much here. Our exposure to wax and BHO (butane hash oil) has been limited to just a few times within the last few years.”

Lee County Sheriff’s deputies called to a County Road 1534 house on Sept. 28 for a home invasion found large quantities of both wax and high-grade marijuana inside.

“We don’t have any evidence that anyone is making BHO locally,” Bostick said. “What we have intercepted appears to be coming from the west coast.”

It is believed by many in law enforcement that marijuana legalization in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, plus medical use in California and some other states, have combined to create a commercial infrastructure for cultivation, processing and sale of products.

Even though it is against the law to ship these products to Mississippi, the majority of what local narcotics agents are seeing is coming through commercial parcel services. The same was true when most other states had legal beverage alcohol. Mississippi didn’t but the infrastructure developed to get it into Mississippi and sell, often in well-known bootleg establishments.

Bostick noted that the more potent marijuana wax reasons is preferred by some users because it is more potent and the equivalent of a misdemeanor amount can provide a strong high.

Marijuana in all its forms remains illegal in Mississippi and under federal law.

The best choice for citizens to help law enforcement combat this issue remains for them to report the suspicion of marijuana wax use.

Online:

https://djournal.com

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