Michigan Sees Some Progress in Battle Against Opioid Addiction

January 23, 2020

By 2022, the global pharma market will reach $1.12 trillion. While that might be good news for prescription drug manufacturers and distributors, the exponential growth of the industry has taken its toll on countless Americans. The nationwide opioid crisis, which led to more than 42,000 deaths in 2016, has impacted virtually every state — and Michigan has felt its effects hard. But the good news is that the trend may be slowly reversing, thanks to substantial grants and other advancements.

Opioids were first touted as a non-addictive way to treat pain, which means many physicians were quick to scribble out prescriptions. Since back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work, many Americans trusted that this medication would get them back on their feet again. Of course, as we now know, prescription opioids did the exact opposite. Some states saw worse damage than others, but the entire nation has suffered as a result.

In 2017, Ohio health providers wrote 63.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons. When you consider that the average U.S. provider rate wrote 58.7 prescriptions per every 100 persons, it’s no surprise that Ohio is one of the top 10 states with the highest opioid death rates between 2013 and 2017. Although Michigan is not on that particular list, there is still major cause for concern.

According to recent data, there were 2,033 opioid-related overdose deaths in Michigan during 2017. That death rate — 21.2 deaths per 100,000 — is far higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons. And despite the fact that the state did see decreases in opioid deaths during 2018, there were still more than 2,000 fatal opioid overdoses that took place that year. Moreover, the majority of those decreases were among white Michiganders. In fact, the death rates among African Americans living in Michigan actually rose by nearly 20% that year.

Genesee and Wayne counties, in particular, saw the largest increases in opioid deaths in 2018, with 184 people and 678 people dying in those respective counties during the course of that year. Not surprisingly, these areas also account for a significant portion of racial disparity in opioid deaths statewide. As a result, these two counties have become a major focus of a new federal grant.

Michigan is set to receive $17.5 million in order to fight opioid addiction and opioid overdose deaths. Grant funds will go towards naloxone distribution in high-risk populations and areas, syringe service programs, mobile care units, provider outreach for those treating opioid use disorder, data-driven overdose response efforts, startup costs for new treatments, community engagement in majority-minority communities, loan repayment for providers focusing on medication-assisted treatments, and opioid disorder treatments for use in jails and emergency departments.

Although the average hospital owns or rents over 35,000 SKUs of equipment at any one time, the reality is that treatments for those struggling with opioid addiction or those who experience opioid overdoses are currently inaccessible to many. One recent University of Michigan study found that a mere 2% of people who had at least one main risk factor for an opioid overdose filled prescriptions for naloxone within six months. Increasing the availability of these treatments, especially among vulnerable populations, could hold the key to making greater strides statewide.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer noted in a statement, “This epidemic is hurting families in every community in our state and we need to use every tool in the toolbox to address it. These efforts will help move us closer to our goal of cutting the number of opioid deaths in half in five years.”

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