Report: Youth overdose deaths nearly quadruple in Mich.

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Youth overdoses almost quadrupled in Michigan from 1999-2001 to 2011-13, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health.

“Reducing Teen Substance Abuse: What Really Works” dovetails with a call from Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration for heightened monitoring of pain killer prescriptions as the centerpiece of a state-led battle against the growing number of addictions and deaths in Michigan linked to opioids.

The analysis found that Michigan’s overdose death rate is higher than the national average for youth ages 12-25. Michigan placed 22nd highest among the states with a rate of 8.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 young people, compared with 7.3 deaths per 100,000 nationally.

This was nearly four times higher than the state’s rate of 2.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 young people in 1999-2001, according to the report.

Youth drug-overdose rates more than doubled in 35 states during the past decade, according to the report. Michigan is among 12 states where the rate more than tripled.

Overdose deaths more than quadrupled in five states, including neighboring Wisconsin.

“More than 90 percent of adults who develop a substance-use disorder began using before they were 18,” trust Executive Director Jeffrey Levi said in a statement. “Achieving any major reduction in substance misuse will require a reboot in our approach, starting with a greater emphasis on preventing use before it starts, intervening and providing support earlier and viewing treatment and recovery as a long-term commitment.”

Michigan scored five out of 10 on a list of key programs and policies to reduce and prevent substance abuse. Only two states — Minnesota and New Jersey — scored a perfect 10 on the list of reforms, such as increasing access to counseling and anti-bullying legislation.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in October unveiled the recommendations of the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force, calling for increased reliance on the Michigan Automated Prescription Service to guard against unintended over-prescribing of addictive pain-control medications.

Under the task force’s plan, doctors would have to report pain killer prescriptions they issue and consult the database before writing new ones. The lieutenant governor also called for a campaign to educate the public about the potential for accidental pain-killer addiction and proposed legislation to shield people from prosecution when they seek emergency help for friends who overdose.

Opioid analgesics or painkillers accounted for nearly 20 percent of 5,062 deaths caused by “unintentional drug poisonings” in Michigan between 2009 and 2013, according to the state.