The United States is in the midst of a national opioid crisis, and it’s driving growing number of drug-related deaths in Michigan and other states, or so say experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Though it takes a little time for comprehensive statistics to roll out to the public, the trend for the past ten years or so has been continuing to get worse: more people are dying from drugs than ever before.
When you take a look at the graphs, however, some drugs are not as big of a problem. Cocaine and meth-related deaths, for example, serious concerns of the past, have been on the overall decline. Experts are saying the same thing about usage. Fortunately, fewer people have been using cocaine and meth. In part, the higher cost of cocaine over opioids may be part of it. Legislation making the ingredients for meth and meth educational campaigns may be improving the statistics, particularly among young people.
Yet, Michigan drug-related deaths have increased nearly 400%!
Most experts agree: opioids are the culprit.
Why Opioids are Killing Our Neighbors
So why are opioids killing thousands of our neighbors? On that, experts might disagree.
Opioids are the class of narcotic painkillers found in both prescription drugs (like OxyContin and Vicodin) and street drugs (like heroin and fentanyl). (For a list of opioids, see this link).
People start using opioids for various reasons, often because of something like an injury or surgery which necessitate a prescription pain medication.
People start using heroin for various reasons, but four out of five new heroin users began abusing prescription drugs.
Why some people become addicted and others do not is also cause for much debate. The two simple truths are: some people start using opioids for innocent reasons, and some people become addicted to opiates. When we argue about who or why, or try to stereotype who ends up abusing such drugs, we distract from the matter at hand: that opioids are killing thousands of Michigan citizens.
Why You Can’t Leave It to the Experts
While the experts analyze and debate the details, it falls to all of us to get involved and make a safer Michigan. Your level of involvement is your choice, but taking any action can help.
Here are some things you can do to help reverse the trends of drug-related deaths in Michigan, specifically (even if the rest of the nation takes a while to catch up):
- Get involved in legislation: Drug-overdose reversal medication is effective and simple to administer. Michigan law now allows for emergency personnel and trained school administrators to provide life-saving naloxone. We could do better: some states allow pharmacies to carry naloxone and save more lives.
- Get involved in the community: Whether it be to volunteer for addicts in recovery directly, contribute to drug-prevention-education in the schools or joining a community service club that assists with such solutions as child care for those in treatment, our communities have a need for whatever you can provide.
- Advocate for treatment: Despite the successes of effective treatment programs, stigma often prevents access to care. No one wants to be labeled a “drug addict.” Logistical reasons, such as finances or family or work concerns prevent care. If you or a loved one are struggling with dependency on drugs or alcohol, you can advocate for treatment and help provide access to care.
If we work together, Michigan can set the bar for recovery and bring down the number of drug-related deaths nationwide.