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Michigan sees spike in opioid-related overdose deaths during pandemic

Opioid addiction drugs severely underutilized, study finds
Posted at 7:25 AM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-26 07:25:34-04

We're taking a deep look into how the COVID-19 pandemic is fueling Michigan's opioid crisis. The state is reporting an increase in overdose deaths, including in metro Detroit.

Over the weekend, police departments helped hundreds of people get rid of unwanted medication safely through drug take-back day.

It's part of a national effort coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA said for some families, the medicine cabinet can be a deadly drug dealer.

The Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN) is fighting the opioid crisis around the clock. It has 24 drop-boxes of your unwanted meds, including at police departments in Highland Park, Inkster, and Livonia.

At the Detroit Recovery Project, we're learning that not only is there an uptick in new users, but those in long-term recovery have relapsed and even lost their lives.

"It's almost like a two-fold pandemic," Detroit Recovery Project CEO Andre Johnson said. "Opioid addiction and addiction itself has always been a pandemic."

Johnson said the pandemic has pulled no punches for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and recovery. It's a struggle he knew firsthand and helps others at the Detroit Recovery Project.

"The pandemic has created this isolation. This lack of socialization, and those are the variables that help people stay drug and alcohol-free," he said.

He said social connection is key to recovery.

From January 2020 to June 2020, there were 1,340 overdose deaths in our state. That's up from 1,155 in the same timeframe in 2019.

Also, opioid-related overdose deaths increased by 20% in the same timeframe from 874 in the first half of 2019 to 1,045 in the first half of 2020.

The state said deaths are likely underreported.

"Almost every day we're deploying NARCAN to try to save a life, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.

Bouchard added that opioid overdoses have grown steadily since the life-saving NARCAN drug was deployed by the department in 2015. It's used to stabilize people who have overdosed.

"At this point, we're close to 400 times just at the sheriff's office," Bouchard said.

He said there's much higher trafficking at the southern border, with fentanyl up 43% in the previous month or so, as well as smuggling of synthetic fentanyl from China.

"The other thing we're seeing too is big increase as it relates to meth and ecstasy," Bouchard said. "So we've got a lot of different things happening simultaneously. More drugs coming in, higher potency of those drugs. and couple that with what my grandma used to call cabin fever."