Black and white photo of a church with anti-alcohol sign, Myrtle, MS.

Church with anti-alcohol sign, Myrtle (Photograph by David Wharton)

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

In 2005 Mississippi had 13,953 drug abuse violation arrests, 912 of them involving youth under the age of eighteen. Additional 2004–5 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health results indicate that roughly 68,000 Mississippi citizens (2.9 percent) reported illicit drug dependence or abuse within the past year, and approximately 23,000 (8.82 percent) twelve- to seventeen-year-olds reported using an illicit drug in the past month. Approximately 63,000 Mississippi citizens (2.68 percent) reported needing but not receiving treatment for illicit drug use within the past year. The director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is authorized to designate areas within the United States that exhibit serious drug trafficking problems that harm other areas of the country as “high-intensity drug trafficking areas.” As of 2015, eight Mississippi counties—Forrest, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Lafayette, Madison, and Rankin—bear that designation, meaning that they participate in a program to coordinate drug control efforts among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and receive equipment, technology, and additional federal resources to help combat drug trafficking.

Reports from the US Drug Enforcement Administration acknowledge that Mississippi is one of several southern river and gulf port states that are experiencing significant problems with the movement of illegal drugs. Drug trafficking patterns indicate that the interstate highway system is the preferred method of transporting illegal drugs into and through the state.

A variety of illegal drugs are being abused in Mississippi. Cocaine, specifically solid, smokable crack, is the predominant drug threat in Mississippi because of its availability and its high addiction rate. Cocaine is distributed and abused in both the state’s metropolitan and rural areas and is associated with more incidents of violent crime than any other drug in Mississippi.

Methamphetamine poses the second-most-serious drug threat in Mississippi as a consequence of its increasing availability, low cost, rapid growth of abuse, and threat to human life and the environment. The state’s law enforcement officers now frequently encounter methamphetamine labs, which manufacture the drug using the chemical anhydrous ammonia and cold pills, mostly in rural communities. During 2006 the Drug Enforcement Administration and state and local authorities reported 134 methamphetamine lab seizures.

Marijuana is the most frequently abused and abundantly available drug in Mississippi, regularly sold and used by citizens from all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. The marijuana being distributed and used in the state comes primarily from Mexico. According to 2004–5 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health data, approximately 113,000 Mississippi citizens aged twelve or older reported using marijuana during the preceding month.

Club drugs are available in small quantities throughout Mississippi, especially around university towns. MDMA (also known as Ecstasy) has become the most prevalent and popular of the club drugs, primarily among middle- to upper-class young adult whites. The drugs GHB and ketamine are not currently known to be widely available or popular in Mississippi.

As of 2015, heroin was on the rise at an alarming rate, and in 2014 Mississippi had more heroin cases than any year in the previous decade. The drug has become a larger threat because of the increasing demand and relatively low cost.

Diverted pharmaceuticals are a popular means for obtaining drugs illegally. Law enforcement officials report that OxyContin abuse remains a threat in Mississippi, and it is currently the pharmaceutical drug of concern. Prescription forgeries, doctor shopping, and Internet pharmacies all aid in the diversion process. Clinics in neighboring states continue to be a source for the abuse of methadone by Mississippi residents.

Mississippi’s alcohol statistics are also alarming. In 2005 underage drinking cost the state’s citizens $534 million in medical care, work loss, and pain and suffering. This figure translates to $1,747 per year for each youth in the state—forty-first among the states. Underage drinking is widespread: approximately 135,000 Mississippi youth drink each year. In 2005 underage drinkers consumed 12.7 percent of all alcohol sold—$143 million. Underage drinkers accounted for 2.3 percent of Mississippi’s 2003 arrests for driving under the influence, a statistic that remained unchanged through 2005. That year, the costs of underage drinking were estimated at violence, $222.4 million; traffic crashes, $199.3 million; high-risk sex (among those aged fourteen to twenty), $53.3 million; property crime, $27.6 million; injury, $13.2 million; poisonings and psychoses, $3.0 million; fetal alcohol syndrome (among mothers aged fifteen to twenty), 10.6 million; and alcohol treatment, $5.2 million.

Mississippi ranks among the worst states in the country for alcohol-related behaviors, driving under the influence, and deaths of underage drinkers. The state’s adult males are twice as likely as females to be heavy drinkers (4.9 percent to 2.3 percent on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System). Treatment data from the Mississippi Department of Mental Health show that in 2005, 22.3 percent of adult patients received treatment for alcohol as their primary problem, and 23.7 percent received treatment for alcohol as a secondary problem. Patients reported alcohol as their drug of choice 36.4 percent of the time. The 2005 Mississippi Smart Track Survey showed that alcohol was the most frequently abused substance among high school students and that 10.3 percent of ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders had been suspended or expelled as a result of an alcohol-related incident. These statistics strongly indicate that Mississippi could benefit from investing more dollars in the prevention of drug and alcohol problems as opposed to the higher costs associated with alcohol and other drug treatment.

Further Reading

  • 2008 Mississippi State Factsheet, Drug Enforcement Administration
  • International Institute for Alcohol Awareness
  • Mississippi Department of Education and Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Mississippi’s Health Data Source website,
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Alcohol and Drug Abuse
  • Author
  • Keywords Alcohol and Drug Abuse
  • Website Name Mississippi Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date April 7, 2020
  • Publisher Center for Study of Southern Culture
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update June 5, 2019