Drug-related deaths up more than 7 percent, Sparrow report finds


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A report from Sparrow hospital’s medical examiner shows that drug-related deaths have increased for the second quarter of 2021.

Deaths covered in the report resulted from both natural disease and drug intoxication.

“This quarter is actually the highest quarter since we began tracking data,” said Michelle Fox, the supervisor for Sparrow’s Forensic Pathology department. “We’re starting to see predominantly opioids of those we’re seeing stimulant and fentanyl related deaths.”

1:38 we have a 40 percent of our opioid deaths that also contain a stimulant cocaine or methamphetamine sdo our cocaine and amphetamine deatsh are up too

Deaths involving violence, or deaths that may have been caused or contributed to by intoxication, like an injury from a motor vehicle crash in which the at-fault driver was intoxicated, were not included in the statistics.

Additionally, deaths related to the effects of chronic drug use like alcoholic liver disease or heart disease which may have been contributed to by repeated cocaine use were not included in the report if not combined with acute toxicity, or exposure to drugs over a short period of time was not included in the data.

The highlights of the report taken across five counties (Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella and Shiawassee) show that:

  • Total drug-related deaths increased by 7.1%, or 4 more
  • Opioid-related deaths decreased by 3.8%, or 2 less
  • Fentanyl-related deaths decreased by 4.4%, or 2 less
The graph provided by the Sparrow Medical Examiner shows drug class occurrences in drug-related deaths.
  • Cocaine-related deaths increased by 55.6%, or 5 more
  • Amphetamine/Methamphetamine-related deaths increased by 28.6%, or 4 more
  • Benzodiazepine-related deaths increased by 22.2%, or 2 more

The majority of the drug deaths reported tended to involve more than one substance.

  • 81.7% of all drug-related deaths in Q2 2021 were due to two or more substances
  • 22% of all opioid-related deaths in Q2 2021 also involved at least one benzodiazepine
  • 22% of all opioid-related deaths in Q2 2021 also involved ethanol, or alcohol
  • 21.6% of all drug related deaths in Q2 2021 involved ethanol, or alcohol

Oftentimes, a person has even more substances present in their body at the time of death or overdose incident than just the substances listed as having caused or contributed to the death. There may be substances present that is not included in the cause of death statement.

According to the report, after an autopsy and review of records, including a toxicology report, the medical examiner assigned to the case determines which of the substances present played a role in the death.

“Seeking help when you do have a drug problem is always very important regardless of the numbers,” said Fox.

Courtesy: Sparrow Medical Examiner

The second quarter drug deaths total has hit a new high in the past three years.

County Breakdown

Eaton County

Eaton Couty is seeing a decline in drug-related deaths from both last quarter and the second quarter of 2020.

Only two drug-related deaths for the quarter, the manner of both deaths being an accidental overdose.

Ingham County

Ingham County saw an increase of drug-related deaths almost entirely across the board, with a notable spike in opiod related deaths and fentanyl related deaths.

Ionia County

Drug related deatchs in Ionia County only increased by 1, going from two deaths to three. Notably, one death had other drugs involved, that were not evaluated in the study.

Isabella County

Isabella County did not see an increase of drug-related deaths last quarter, as well as no deaths related to cocaine.

Shiawassee County

Both deaths in Shiawassee County were accidental, with new deaths occcurring in relation to drugs that were not present in past quarterly reports.

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