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Mississippi Law Enforcement Working Together to Keep Meds Off Streets

Tyler Jackson

Law enforcement agencies at many levels are cooperating in new efforts to keep legitimately prescribed drugs from ending up in the recreational drugs market. A program that allows Mississippi residents to turn in unused or unneeded prescription medication was the first of what officials hope to be a series of programs designed to reduce the availability of prescription drugs for illegal use, according to a recent press release. Last week, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, working closely with local law enforcement agencies, held Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which provided residents a safe means to dispose of old medications at nine locations across the state. Residents turned in medication to law enforcement officials. Other safe disposal methods described in the press release, included mixing medications with unappealing garbage items such as coffee to innocuously dispose of the drugs. Prescription drug use is a serious problem both nationally and in Oxford. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2010, a study showed that there were approximately seven million non-medical users of psychotherapeutic drugs alone in the U.S. Pain relievers were the most commonly used drugs of this class, with 5.1 million users, followed successively by tranquilizers (2.2 million users), stimulants (1.1 million users), and sedatives (.4 million users). All of these drugs target the central nervous system. The problem is especially prevalent among adolescents. Nearly one in 12 high school seniors reported non-medical use of Vicodin; one in 20 reported abuse of OxyContin, according to the NIDA website. The reason for this appears to be availability. “When asked how prescription narcotics were obtained for non-medical use, 70 percent of 12th graders said they were given to them by a friend or relative (MTF 2011),” according to the website. “The number obtaining them over the internet was negligible.” The NIDA website also lists misconceptions about safety and varied motivations for abuse as factors that make youth prone to using these types of drugs. NIDA cautions that users of prescription drugs expose themselves to serious risks. Users of opioids could become addicted, face complications from an overdose, and are at an increased risk for contracting HIV. It shares the two former risks with central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Stimulant users could develop an addiction or face health problems such as psychosis, seizures and cardiovascular problems. Captain Keith Davis of the Oxford Narcotics Unit points out that Oxford is not immune to illicit prescription drug abuse. He also said the department sees an increase in prescription drug trafficking and use when students return from break, but he attributed this to an increase in population, not a tendency for Ole Miss students to use these drugs at a higher frequency than the rest of the population. “The department has handled 38 cases involving prescription drugs since January of this year and has seized 712 pills in relation to these cases,” he said. “These have included Focalin, Xanax, Vyvanse, Lortab, Oxycontin and many other drugs.” Davis said enforcing prescription drug laws is just as challenging as enforcing laws involving drugs like marijuana, crack and heroine. He also said programs that help reduce the availability of prescription drug definitely aid the work of his department and that reducing unauthorized prescription drug use increases public safety. “People take these drugs without knowing anything about them and risk overdose,” he said. “We see people from every demographic unnecessarily risking serious harm by luring themselves into a false sense of security.”