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Everyone must work to fight the opioid crisis

At a Brookhaven town hall meeting Tuesday, organizers presented some sobering stats about the enormity of the opioid problem in Mississippi.

Last year in Mississippi, more than 200 million dosage units of opioids were dispensed. That works out to about 70 units for every person in the state. Mississippi is ranked No. 5 in the nation for per capita opioid prescriptions.

Between 2013 and 2016 the state saw 563 reported drug overdose deaths with 85 percent of those related to opioids.

The problem is real, right here in Mississippi and right here in Lincoln County.

The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics reported that opioid deaths now kill more people in this country than auto accidents or gun violence.

It’s a problem that is not going away without a combined effort from local, state and federal agencies and the public. And it is going to take a ton of resources.

Pharmacies and doctors can help reduce the problem by participating in the Mississippi Prescription Monitoring Program, which compiles records of all prescriptions for controlled substances. Using the program can help doctors and pharmacists know if a patient is a potential abuser.

Doctors will also have to change the way they prescribe opioids, and the federal government will have to find ways to encourage more responsible prescription writing.

Family members and friends of those struggling with addiction can also help by exploring treatment options.

We will also have to start looking at addiction as a medical problem, not some sort of moral failure. The stigma surrounding addiction will have to be lifted in order for people to get the help they need.

Treatment will have to be readily available and cheap if we hope to solve this problem. It has to be easier to get help than it is to get high.

Fighting this health crisis will take significant investment at every level of government. It won’t be cheap, but not doing something isn’t acceptable.