The impact of drug misuse and diseases associated with drug misuse has a direct impact on Mississippi. Several policy options exist to reduce drug misuse and reduce associated harms. The Center has several publications focusing on these policy options.
Syringe Services Programs Impact on the Spread of Communicable Diseases
Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) are community-based programs that provide access free of charge to sterile needles and syringes and facilitate safe disposal of used needles and syringes to prevent the spread of disease. Increases in injection drug use associated with the aftermath of the opioid crisis have led to greater interest in SSPs by federal and state policymakers.
Why this is important:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that in 2016, nine percent of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in the United States were attributable to injection drug use (IDU).
- IDU is the most common means of transmitting hepatitis, and an estimated 30 percent of persons who inject illegal drugs aged 18-30 years are infected with hepatitis.
- 19 states have laws authorizing syringe exchange statewide, 27 states authorize the sale of syringes without a prescription, and seven states exempt syringes from their paraphernalia laws.
- The availability of SSPs is associated with a greater than 60 percent reduction in the risk of contracting communicable diseases, such as hepatitis B and C, among injection drug users.
- Syringe exchange programs are associated with reductions in HIV transmission.
Prescription Drugs: Impacts of Misuse and Accidental Overdose in MississippiNonmedical use of prescription drugs has been identified as a growing public health problem and increasingly common cause of accidental death. Drug overdose now kills more people than motor vehicle crashes in the United States and persists as a major public health concern in Mississippi.
Why this is important:
- The death rate from drug overdose in the United States has tripled since 1991, and prescription drugs are cited as the primary cause of this increase.
- There are now more overdose deaths due to opioid pain medications than the total number caused by both cocaine and heroin. In 2008, opioid pain relievers were responsible for at least 40 percent of U.S. drug poisoning deaths.
- In 2011, 232 deaths in Mississippi were classified as resulting from unintentional poisoning by drugs.
- Of 232 drug poisoning deaths in Mississippi in 2011, 52 decedents did not have records in the MS PMP. Of the 52 decedents without records, 40 were not listed in the system at all. Twelve decedents were in the system, but did not have any prescriptions recorded during the two years prior to death. There were 180 decedents who had at least one prescription in the MS PMP in the two years prior to death.
- Decedents received controlled substances from 1-19 dispensers, with an average of 4 dispensers per decedent in the two years prior to death. Nearly half of the decedents received controlled substances from 3 or fewer dispensers in the two years prior to death.
- In 2011, approximately 20 percent of providers write 80 percent of prescriptions for pain medication.
Medical Marijuana: Ballot initiative 2020
Currently, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, Mississippi has added a ballot measure for public vote on the legalization of medical marijuana in 2020. As recently as 2015, over half the US has expressed the opinion that both recreational and medical marijuana should be legal.
With increased public support and the early medical evidence being relatively split, the initial emergence of Medical Marijuana Programs (MMPs) was not primarily a health intervention but rather a policy intervention that impacts the public’s health. However, as more evidence becomes available, research has emerged to support marijuana as a valid medical treatment worthy of policy consideration. A recent report from the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine suggested that conclusive or substantial evidence exists for the use of cannabis, or marijuana, as an effective treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea, and chronic pain.
The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) will be the agency responsible for the entirety of the preparation and roll out of the state’s MMP if the ballot measure passes. Any subsequent changes to the ballot measure would have to come from another ballot measure and cannot be directly modified through state statute.
Medical Marijuana Laws (MMLs)Medical Marijuana Laws (MMLs) have gained support in scientific communities, therapeutic circles, and public opinion over several decades. Based on a recent report from the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine there is conclusive or substantial evidence for the use of marijuana as an effective treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea, and chronic pain, while other conditions had lesser supporting evidence. Seventy-four percent of Mississippi voters approved the MML during the November 2020 referendum vote. Research shows that a defining factor for implementing a successful medical marijuana program (MMP) is to lay the groundwork and create a structure before policies’ enactment.
While no objective model for an ideal MML currently exists, there are several common steps in other states’ policies proven to be effective, such as:
- Only allowing medical marijuana treatment for specific medical conditions;
- Requiring physician documentation of an approved medical condition;
- Requiring patients to register and pay an access fee;
- Not allowing smoking medical marijuana except for certain conditions;
- Limiting the amount of marijuana a patient can access or possess at any given time;
- Defining the methods of obtaining medical marijuana (personal in-home cultivation or medical dispensaries);
- Defining the locations where medical marijuana may be used; and
- Directing revenue generated by MMPs to fully fund programs before surplus revenue can be redirected to other uses.
To read the issue brief, click here.
- Syringe Services Programs: Impact on the Spread of Communicable Diseases (2019)
- Prescription Drugs: Impacts of Misuse and Accidental Overdose in Mississippi (2013)
- Medical Marijuana: Ballot Initiative 2020 (February 2020)
- Medical Marijuana Programs (January 2021)