OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — A county in north Mississippi is reporting an increase in drug activity and overdose deaths that is alarming law enforcement.
The Oxford Eagle reports that 10 people have died from drug overdoses in the last six months in the Lafayette County area, according to the Oxford Police Department. Seven of those deaths occurred in 2021. At least five people have survived overdoses this year.
Drugs like Percocet, Hydrocodone, Xanax and Oxycodone are being pressed with fentanyl, a highly- powerful synthetic opioid, according to police. Fentanyl has also been identified in meth, ecstasy and heroin.
Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen cited the stress of the pandemic as one of many factors that may explain the spike in overdose cases.
“We saw last year, our mental health calls went through the roof since the first year we started tracking them,” McCutchen told the Oxford Eagle. “I think it’s a lot of factors that go into the strange year that we’ve had. I think that some of the stress and some of the pressure that people have been under, we’ve probably had new users."
McCutchen urged residents to be careful about purchasing drugs from any source that is not a pharmacy. He said his team sees cases where drugs cut with fentanyl are pressed with the same identifying markings as the real pharmaceuticals.
“Obviously, when you see that many overdoses in a small community like this, it is alarming," he said. "But you’ve got to get the word out, that what you may be buying on the street isn’t exactly what you may be getting.”
Lafayette County has a population of around 54,000, according to U.S. Census estimates from 2019. Oxford, the county seat, is home to the University of Mississippi.
This story has been corrected to reflect the police chief spoke to the Oxford Eagle, not the Oxford American.