Hospitals seeing massive increase in opioid overdoses

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JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — New numbers shed more light on the opioid crisis across the country and here in mid-Michigan.

In the three years Dr. Alan Lazzara has worked in the emergency room at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson he’s seen heroin overdoses skyrocket.

“Every shift I work, I take care of somebody who has either overdosed, or has an opioid use problem,” Dr. Lazzara said.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control says from July 2016 to September 2017 visits to hospital emergency rooms for opioid overdoses rose 30 percent nationwide.

In the Midwest that number went up nearly 70 percent.

The massive increase has been creating a strain on resources at hospitals.

“It still remains an enormous problem,” Dr. Lazzara said.

In the Jackson area, Henry Ford Allegiance says heroin overdoses went up from 255 in 2016 to 263 in 2017.

Opioid-related deaths dropped slightly from 38 to 25.

But overall drug deaths climbed from 52 to 76.

The hospital says 90 percent of the overdoses they see are happening to white males aged 20-40.

With drug crisis still prevalent, doctors at Henry Ford Allegiance are looking at ways they can help turn things around.

Dr. Lazzara says they work hard to create a judgment-free zone that encourages overdose patients to get help.

He says information on where patients can get help is provided to them before they’re discharged.

“We have a wonderful team of social workers that work here. And we can refer people to the Allegiance Recovery Network or the Allegiance Addiction Recovery Center and they coordinate detox, long-term, short-term care,” Dr. Lazzara said.

He added that hospitals can’t force patients to participate in a recovery program, and patients need to make the decision to get help on their own.

Doctors are also working on policies to prevent people getting hooked on drugs in the first place by limiting prescriptions of addictive painkillers.

Dr. Lazzara says there’s only so much local hospitals can do to battle the problem, so to see these dramatic numbers turn around there needs to be a community-wide approach.

“Your have to have counseling, you have to have medications if needed, you have to have family support, you have to have purpose in life. All those things put together you can have the best chance of beating a bad habit like this,” Dr. Lazzara said.

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