Opioid addiction has become one of the leading public health crises in the United States. Overdose fatalities have been hitting record highs since 2014 and, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reached more than 63,600 in 2016. The continued spread in prescription painkiller abuse has spawned a whole new population of those addicted while contributing to the rampant proliferation of heroin abuse. The opioid crisis transcends class, race, ethnicity, income, and geography and has truly become everyone’s problem, including the state of Michigan. As is the case with other areas of the country, the opioid crisis in Michigan has left death, community devastation, and a decline in quality of life in its wake.
The Michigan Opioid Crisis by the Numbers
Data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reveals that opioid-related deaths in the state jumped 54 percent from 2015 to 2016. A total of 1,689 Michigan residents died from opioid overdoses in 2016, compared to 884 in 2015 and 426 in 2012. Opioids were responsible for 72 percent of these deaths.
A recent, rather comprehensive report on the Michigan opioid crisis, commissioned by Governor Rick Snyder, revealed that:
- More than 7.5 million patients receiving 103.2 million prescriptions over the last five years were linked to 5,261 overdose deaths.
- From 2013 to 2015, the largest number of drug-related overdose deaths occurred among in men ranging from ages 26 to 35 and 46 to 55.
- From 2013 to 2015, among women, the largest number of drug-related overdose deaths were in the age group of 46 to 55.
- Grand Rapids
- Lincoln Park
Hydrocodone had the highest rates of prescription opioid–related fatalities. An overwhelming majority of these prescriptions were written by primary care physicians.
What’s Behind the Opioid Crisis in Michigan?
The factors driving the opioid crisis in Michigan are, for a large part, identical to those driving it throughout the rest of the country. Of particular concern is the apparent ease with which many of the state’s primary care providers write prescriptions for painkillers. State data indicates that in 2016, there were more than eleven million prescriptions written, enough to provide every man, woman, and child in the state with their own filled prescription, with some left over. Opioid prescriptions have increased more than 40 percent over the last five years. Other factors driving the problem are lack of economic opportunity in many areas of the state, crime, and untreated mental illness.