Overdose deaths are down for the first time in six years

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FILE – In this April 5, 2019, file photo, containers depicting OxyContin prescription pill bottles lie on the ground in front of the Department of Health and Human Services’ headquarters in Washington as protesters demonstrate against the FDA’s opioid prescription drug approval practices. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Deaths from opioids are down in Michigan for the first time in six years.

That’s according to an announcement made today by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

Overall overdose deaths declined by 3.2 percent from 2017, when 2,686 deaths were counted.

Opioid-related overdose deaths decreased by 0.8 percent from 2,053 in 2017. The age-adjusted opioid overdose death rate decreased from 21.4 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 21.1 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2018.

“This is a step in the right direction, however, there is much work to be done, particularly when it comes to disparities and access to treatment,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. “We have a plan in Michigan to cut opioid-related overdose deaths by half in five years and we will be using all available resources to make that goal a reality.”

Officials say the decline in opioid deaths is due to a drop in the number of deaths from heroin, natural and semi-synetic drug poisonings. Those semi-synthetic drugs include oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and oxymorphone.

Even though the total overall deaths dropped, the mortality rate disparities between blacks and whites are large.

MDHHS data show opioid overdose mortality rates among white residents decreased by 5.1 percent while the rates among black residents increased by 19.9 percent.

The report showed that other races experienced a 9.1 percent decrease in overall overdose mortality and an 8.7 decrease in opioid overdose mortality.

The State of Michigan is currently proceeding with efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and the deaths that result from it by doing the following:

  • expanding syringe service programs from 13 to 25 agencies
  • removing authorization requirements for medications used to treat disorders, including buprenorphine (effective Monday Dec. 2)
  • launching a $1 million statewide anti-stigma campaign to change conversation about opioid use disorder treatment

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