DEA Agent breaks down the rise in fentanyl overdoses in South Mississippi

The shocking number of fentanyl overdoses is growing more in South Mississippi each day.
Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 8:26 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The shocking number of fentanyl overdoses is growing more in South Mississippi each day.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said overdoses in Pearl River, Hancock, and Harrison counties are the highest, which makes South Mississippi take the lead in the state for fatal and non-fatal overdoses.

The Harrison County Coroner’s Office reported a 78% increase from 2018 to 2020.

Since January, 2021, there have been 13 incidents where officers gave Narcan for life-threatening drug overdose medical emergencies. It stemmed from the use of heroin, a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, a mixture of methamphetamine and benzodiazepine and large quantity mixtures of pharmaceuticals.

In a 2019 population estimate of 16,0232, over 46% of the recent overdoses were within a 14-day period from July 1 to July 14, 2021.

Harrison County's fentanyl overdose results
Harrison County's fentanyl overdose results(WLOX)

DEA Resident Agent Chris Bell said that the deadly drug is easy to mix with other substances.

“It’s a very dangerous drug and very small amounts can kill you just as basic as skin contact. We’re finding it in marijuana, we’re finding it in cocaine. Pretty much anything we can mix it with and it’s very deadly combinations,” said Bell.

Bell explained that he’s personally affected by the drug’s overdose rate. He said some people don’t realize that the consequences go beyond just the abuser.

“My wife’s cousin overdosed and passed away. So, we’ve inherited a four-year-old. You can’t say it’s not going to touch family because one day it will,” said Bell.

Bell said that the rise in fentanyl overdoses on the Coast became alarming to the point where local coroners asked the agency for assistance.

Bell said that due to the Coast being near New Orleans, Hattiesburg and Atlanta it makes it easier for the drugs to roll in.

Another factor is people having more time and money on their hands to participate in drugs.

“When you’re cooped up for that long and you’ve got money still coming in, then it breeds more opportunity that wasn’t there. It’s probably increased the amount of overdoses because they probably have more spendable income than they normally do because they’re not doing the things that they normally do like going out to eat when quarantine was in full effect. You probably have people get into selling because they’re not spending that money somewhere else,” said Bell.

Just Wednesday the DEA, FBI and several local law enforcement agencies made multiple arrests in two drug raids in Jackson County.

Officers left with pills and two pill presses.

“They were making their own stuff. They’re not chemists, they’re not pharmacists who mix stuff. They’re mixing from stuff they’ve heard or read,” said Bell.

Bell said the agency assembled an Overdose Response Team in August that tests pills’ similarities in order to trace them back to the seller.

He said the DEA and partnered agencies shifted their way of thinking to gain successful strategies to lower numbers.

“If you’re dealing stuff that’s going to kill people or putting people down on an overdose. We’re going to find you, and we’re going to be at your front door before you know it,” said Bell.

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