Drug overdose deaths rose 14% in Michigan

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Drug overdose deaths in 2014 in Michigan rose 14 percent compared to 2013, claiming the lives of 1,745 people, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Monday.

The 1,745 deaths compare to 1,535 in 2013. In 2014, the last year for which numbers are available, drug overdose deaths were the No. 1 cause of injury-related deaths in Michigan, the state said. By comparison, 876 people died in car crashes in Michigan in 2014.

Wayne County accounted for 18 percent of drug overdose deaths, or 322. Detroit, with 132, accounted for 7.5 percent. That number is higher than the total for all of Oakland County, which had 127 drug overdose deaths, or 7.2 percent of the statewide total. Macomb had 14 percent of drug overdose deaths statewide, or 249. Washtenaw County had 65 such deaths, or 3.7 percent of the total.

Opioid- and heroin-related overdoses reached 1,001. In 1999, that number was 99. That total has gone up most years since, except for 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011.

In response to rising death tallies related to opioids and heroin, Gov. Rick Snyder convened the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force in 2015. In October, it released its findings and gave recommendations on how Michigan can fix the problem, including upgrades to its prescription drug monitoring system, MAPS, and increasing access to naloxone, an opioid antidote that stops overdoses.

Dozens have been saved in Oakland and Macomb counties with the drug, though three of Michigan’s largest police agencies — Michigan State Police, the Detroit Police Department, and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office — do not yet carry it.

Some state troopers are getting training on how to dispense naloxone, said Lt. Mike Shaw. Troopers assigned to Wayne County will be trained in the next month, and will start carrying the drug, Shaw said.

Opioids and heroin represent an increasing percentage of drugs people overdose on in Michigan. In 1999, opioids and heroin accounted for about 22 percent of drug-overdose deaths; in 2014, 57 percent. The last year opioids and heroin accounted for less than 46 percent of drug overdose deaths in Michigan was 2011.

Men died of heroin overdoses at a greater rate than women, 7 per 100,000 compared to 2.1 per 100,000. Young adults ages 25-34 died of heroin overdoses at a rate of 11.3 per 100,000, while 35- to 44-year-olds died at the highest rate for opioids, 12 per 100,000.

When the tallies from heroin and opioid overdoses are combined, men died at a rate of 21.4 per 100,000, compared to 14.1 per 100,000 for women.