A State of Emergency – Michigan’s Substance Abuse Problem Soars

Police’s yellow tape

While the entire country feels the burden of the opiate epidemic, no two states experience this problem in the same way. For Michigan, the beautiful Great Lakes State, opiate addiction soars to the top of the charts.

No one likes to turn on the news and see a grim report about their home state. Well, that’s what happened to me the other day. An article from Wallethub popped up on my screen, announcing that Michigan had been declared the state with the 2nd worst drug problem in the country. In fact, one could say that Michigan actually does have the single worst drug problem of all the states in the U.S., since first place went to the District of Columbia. (More on that later).

Michigan’s been on hard times for over three decades now. First, the automobile industry crashed in the 1990s (one of many crashes, actually), and that particular crash was almost immediately followed by the housing crisis. It seems like the Mitten state can’t catch a break. These struggles and other socioeconomic factors have led thousands of to turn to opiates, our country’s most lethal drug.

The result? Thousands of overdose deaths each year, all occurring in one of the most beautiful places in the country. I was heartbroken.

Opioids Now the Number One Drug Problem in Michigan

In 2017, 2,033 drug overdoses in Michigan involved opiates. In a state with just under 10 million people, that means 21 people died from opiate overdoses for every 100,000 residents. Compared to the national rate of 14 opiate deaths for every 100,000 people, Michigan’s drug crisis is considerably worse than the national average.

Michigan ambulance
(Photo by ilzesgimene/Shutterstock.com)

As for drug of choice, fentanyl is the leading killer in Michigan. Fentanyl addiction is also the fastest-growing drug problem in the state. Seventy-two people died from fentanyl in Michigan in 2012. Fast forward to 2017, and 1,368 people died from fentanyl. Deaths from heroin also increased during the same 5-year period, rising from 263 deaths in 2012 to 783 deaths in 2017.

As I mentioned earlier, Wallethub rated Michigan as having the 2nd worst drug problem in the nation, 2nd only to the tiny D.C. region. When measured against a series of 22 metrics, Michigan soars to the top or very near the top when compared to other states. Some of those metrics include critical factors like:

  • The overall share of adults who used illicit drugs in the past month.
  • The total number of opioid pain reliever prescriptions written for every 100 residents.
  • The share of adults who could not get treatment for illicit drug use in the past year.
  • The overall share of teenagers who used illicit drugs in the past month.
  • The comparative growth in overdose deaths.
  • The total number of drug arrests per capita.

The fact that Michigan scored so high on the metrics drives home the importance of addressing the drug problem in the Great Lakes State.

Grant Money is a Start, But Michigan Needs More than Just Cash

Like most other states in the nation, 2019 marked the year when Michigan received considerable federal funding to combat the state’s drug epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded the Great Lakes state a little over $7 million to better track overdose deaths. (Better tracking of overdose deaths helps public health officials prevent such deaths in the future.) Furthermore, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration granted Michigan about $28 million in funding to support drug prevention and addiction treatment.

That is all a good start, but it’s just that, a start. Michigan’s drug problem is not just something we can throw money at and hope it will disappear. Furthermore, exactly how that money is spent is a point of concern. Much of the federal funding for addiction treatment in Michigan is just going to medication-assisted therapy. In a lot of ways, that’s just trading one drug for another without providing addicts with real solutions.

The people of Michigan deserve a chance at real sobriety, at a totally drug-free life. The best and safest way to achieve that is with the help of a residential drug treatment program.

Helping a Loved One Overcome a Drug Addiction

Helping loved one

Leaving drugs behind is not an easy task. Doing so requires that the individual overcome cravings for the drug. It requires that the individual gets to the source of his drug problem. It requires that he learn life skills and healthy coping strategies to assist him in leading a happy, drug-free life.

Overcoming any drug problem means overcoming both the physical addiction and the psychological reliance on the drug of choice. That is why treatment is so vital for struggling addicts.

And this is where Narconon comes in. Narconon helps addicts overcome opiate addiction by utilizing a unique, time-tested program.

First, recovering addicts move through a nutrition-based (not drug-based) withdrawal process. This approach gives a recovering addict his first chance at experiencing a drug-free life. Remember, drug-free living is the goal.

Next, a unique detoxification process thoroughly cleanses the individual of all residual drug toxins within his body. This process is found nowhere else and is unique to Narconon.

Once physical addiction has been addressed, a recovering addict can move on to the next segments of the Narconon program. Life skills are next, with these training segments serving to teach the individual about how to organize and approach life in a healthy, positive, drug-free way. If life is a series of two-lane highways with no discernible route, the Narconon life skills segment is the roadmap.

Addiction is not a problem that goes away on its own. It only gets worse. That’s why getting your loved one into treatment is so important. If you have a son or daughter or a parent, sibling, spouse, or grandchild who is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol or a combination of the two, make sure they get help today.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.