JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Mississippi Department of Health reported the leading cause of death by drug overdose is fentanyl poisoning. Drug overdoses primarily affect people ages 18-35.

The United States hit its highest previous opioid death rate in 2017 with 78,000 deaths. In 2018, the country saw the first decline in twenty years at a death toll of about 68,000. Now, doctors are concerned about the death rate spike.

“One of the biggest issues we have with opioid use is that it tends to escalate. Sometimes, people will get put on opioid pain medications by other doctors, then the majority of people don’t get addicted, but some do,” said Psychiatrist Maxie Gordon.

Doctors said there are two types of addictions, one with physiological dependence and one with psychological dependence. By 2020, relief efforts for the pandemic unintentionally put more money for drugs on the streets.

“So if you think back to 2020, a lot of people were getting stimulus checks and were on enhanced unemployment. That was a lot of cash money flowing into the hands of people who were already struggling due to stress and isolation. Having the extra cash money on hand made substances readily available. So, it was an unintended consequence,” said Addiction Medicine Specialist Dr. Dan Edney.

The death rate from fentanyl has not been officially announced, but doctors estimate that 400 people will die from drug overdose in Mississippi this year. The death toll from fentanyl in Mississippi was 13 people twenty years ago. Experts believe most of the drugs in the country are coming from outside of the states. Doctors believe the solution is better border control.