Pending proposal would decriminalize fentanyl testing strips in Mississippi

Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 7:12 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - You’ve probably heard about Narcan that’s used to reverse opioid overdoses. But one proposal aims to potentially stop users in their tracks by learning more about what they’re taking before it reaches that point.

Fentanyl is still circulating in the magnolia state. Just last week, Tupelo police found more than 10,000 pills allegedly containing the drug during a bust. And as overdose deaths keep climbing lawmakers are trying to attack the problem from different angles.

You’ve heard pleas from families about fentanyl.

“It only takes one pill one time. It’s a deadly drug.”

That was just after Parker’s Law was signed last year - designed to crack down on drug dealers. Several states are now talking about giving users access to a tool - fentanyl testing strips.

“If they’re in Mississippi, they could be considered paraphernalia if there was a drug bust,” said Rep. Lee Yancey.

A bill filed by Rep. Lee Yancey this year would decriminalize those strips.

“Those who are against it would say it promotes drug use,” noted Yancey. “But I think those who are taking pills, many of them are going through a season in their life where they’re experimenting with something...maybe they’re a college student or they’re that that age and they’re at a party and someone hands them a pill. And while we don’t condone that we understand that people make mistakes and we’re trying to not make let those mistakes be fatal mistakes.”

Dr. Katherine Pannel, medical director of Right Track Medical Group, has a family history of substance abuse and tries to pass along the warnings about what she describes as a game of Russian roulette with fentanyl.

“I’m a psychiatrist in a college town and we’ve seen unfortunately several deaths in Oxford that are a direct result of fentanyl,” noted Pannel. “So, I’ve tried to incorporate that in all my patients, you know talks during their treatment, especially this college population that if this pill was not prescribed to you directly, you can’t take it.”

The DEA’s 2022 public service alert revealed that 6 out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. That’s up from 4 of 10 in 2021. The testing strips are part of the solution that doesn’t ignore it’s a problem but instead…

“This basically buys us time,” said Pannel. “Everybody has the ability to recover. And this just buys us time and gives them one more day to contemplate getting into treatment and seek recovery.”

There is also a bill that would add fentanyl and drug abuse prevention education to schools in the state.

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