So far this year, there have been more than 200 opioid-related overdose deaths in Mississippi. In our continuing coverage of the opioid crisis, MPB's Mark Rigsby reports the death toll could've been much higher if not for a life-saving drug administered by emergency responders.
The drug is called Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan. It's used as an antidote for a drug overdose. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, there were more than 1,800 doses of Narcan given to patients by licensed emergency medical service providers this year. State Bureau of Narcotics Director John Dowdy says that number shows the opioid epidemic is getting worse.
"We keep seeing more and more people that are dying from this epidemic. Just this year alone in Hinds County, the drug overdose deaths have quadrupled. If folks don't understand that there's a problem at this point, I don't know what rock they've been under."
American Medical Response is an ambulance service operating in 17 counties in Mississippi. Ryan Wilson is a paramedic and clinical education manager. He says AMR has administered more than 900 Narcan doses this year. And, 35% of those calls were known to involve either prescription pain pills, or illegal opioids such as heroin.
"The way the opioid overdose runs its course, once you've gotten to a point to where your heart has stopped, even with Narcan, and all of the other things we have, there's never a guarantee that we can get your heart started back again. Unfortunately, that happens more often than not."
Wilson recommends keeping pain medications secure, and properly disposing unused prescriptions by dropping them off to law enforcement.