Michigan’s ‘preventable’ deaths set to soar 44%

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide are projected to increase 44 percent in Michigan during the next decade, according to a study released Tuesday.

The report, called “Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics, and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy,” projects that 1.6 million Americans could die from drugs, alcohol or suicide between 2016 and 2025, a 60 percent increase over the previous decade.

The study, from Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust, was based on new state-by-state data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and projects numbers for the next decade based on current trends. The groups called for a comprehensive national plan to combat the upsurge in deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide in the United States.

“These numbers are staggering, tragic – and preventable,” Trust for America’s Health President and CEO John Auerbach said in a Tuesday press release.

“There is a serious crisis across the nation and solutions must go way beyond reducing the supply of opioids, other drugs and alcohol. Greater steps — that promote prevention, resiliency and opportunity — must be taken to address the underlying issues of pain, hopelessness and despair.”

If current trends hold true, Michigan would rank 20th in the nation for drug, alcohol and suicide deaths by 2025, with a combined rate of 65.9 such deaths per 100,000. Michigan currently ranks 22nd in the country with a rate of 45.8 such deaths per 100,000.

Michigan’s drug overdose death rate was 20 per 100,000 in 2015, or 16th highest in the nation, according to the study.

The state’s alcohol-induced death rate was 9.9 per 100,000 in 2015, or 29th highest among the states. And Michigan ranked 32nd in the country for suicides, with 14.2 per 100,000 deaths in 2015.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Angela Minicuci said her department still needs to thoroughly review the study. But the report “does draw attention to the importance of a continued focus on the preventable deaths associated with alcohol, drugs and suicide,” she said.

“To this end, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services implements and funds evidence-based prevention and intervention programs and practices at the state and community levels to delay the onset and reduce the use and misuse of alcohol and illicit drugs, as well as to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide,” Minicuci added.

Nationally, 127,500 people died from drugs, alcohol and suicide in 2015, according to the report. Currently about 350 people die from these causes every day. Drug overdose deaths tripled between 2000 and 2015, but the greatest increases were in rural communities where opioid-related death rates spiked seven-fold over that time period, the study found.