5 Facts About the Michigan Opioid Epidemic
Over the past fifteen years, drug overdose deaths in Michigan have risen steadily, devastating families and communities all across the state. Unfortunately, a large portion of these drug overdoses are related to the use of prescription opioids such as Vicodin, OxyContin and morphine, which use can start legally as recommended by a medical doctor. In 1999 there were ninety-nine heroin or opioid overdose deaths in Michigan, while in 2014 there were one thousand one heroin or opioid overdose deaths in Michigan. This represents ten times as many deaths in just a decade and a half.
On June 23rd, Governor Rick Snyder created the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission in order to help address and resolve the opioid epidemic in Michigan. This commission is made up of state and independent health professionals who will monitor indicators of controlled substance abuse and make recommendations regarding licensing, law enforcement, substance abuse treatment and prevention, education, and more. One error that Michigan residents can make is assuming that this epidemic does not affect them and there is nothing they can do about it. In fact, everyone has the potential to make a difference if they understand the epidemic well enough. To that end, the following are five facts about the opioid epidemic in Michigan:
Opioid Epidemic Is Country Wide
The opioid epidemic is affecting states all across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid pain-reliever and heroin overdose deaths increased two hundred percent across the nation between 2000 and 2014. In 2014 alone, there were more than forty-seven thousand drug overdose deaths in the nation.
What Is Being Done About It?
Efforts are being made to change the prescription drug culture. It is estimated that the United States consumes roughly eighty percent of all opioid drug medications available in the world. In 2015 people living in the United States received approximately three hundred million prescriptions written for opioid painkillers. There is a prescription drug culture, wherein Americans believe that prescription drugs can solve any and all of their physical and mental problems. Blue Cross Blue Shield, among others, is working to educate physicians about alternate solutions that may be available instead of prescription pain medications, so that opioids are not being over-prescribed. Some states are also working on instituting statewide database programs that will track the prescribing of opioids so as to recognize and prevent doctor shopping.
Opioids—Gateway for Heroin
Addicts who cannot get opioid medications often turn to heroin. It is not unusual for individuals who are prescribed opioid medications to take them exactly as recommended and yet become tolerant of, dependent upon and addicted to them. When they can no longer obtain prescription opioid medications, either because doctors refuse to prescribe them or they cannot afford them, opioid addicts turn to the “next best thing”: heroin. Unfortunately, the potency of street heroin can vary widely from one batch to the next, which is part of the reason behind the rising number of drug overdoses.
Unneeded Prescriptions Collection
Police stations will collect and safely destroy unwanted prescription drugs. There are twenty-nine Michigan State Police posts that will accept surrendered medications and safely destroy them.
The opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone has saved lives from overdose. Naloxone can bind to opioid receptors so as to prevent opioids in the system from impacting the nerves and body, and it can also help to restore normal respiration that has been suppressed through opioid drug use. One bill, if passed, will require some law enforcement officers and firefighters across the state to train in the use of Naloxone and carry it with them at all times.
The key to addressing and resolving the opioid epidemic is understanding it so that one can take action.
Those individuals who are better informed in the truth about opioids are themselves less likely to turn to these substances and risk dependence and addiction.