Painkiller Prescriptions Outnumber People In Michigan

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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There are more prescriptions for painkillers written annually in Michigan than there are people, fueling a large rise of drug overdoses across the state.

Doctors in Michigan prescribe roughly 11 million painkillers each year, serving a population of under 10 million people. That is a little more than one bottle of narcotics for every resident in the state. Further broken down, it is enough painkillers to give every resident of Michigan roughly 84 opioid pills, according to an analysis of state data by Michigan Live.

Opioid prescriptions spiked in the state in recent years, rising 41 percent between 2009 and 2015. The flood of pills is causing a rise in deaths related to heroin and opioids, which claimed 1,275 in the state in 2015. Fatal opioid overdoses surpassed traffic fatalities and gun deaths in Michigan in 2015.

The drug scourge is making disturbing overdose statistics the new normal in states throughout the country. Fueled by opioid addiction, the death rates for middle age Americans are rising among nearly every racial group after more than 100 years of decline.

Opioids contributed to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993 in 2015, and doctors wrote more than 236 million prescriptions for opioids in 2016, showing American appetite for painkillers is not slowing down.

“There’s no question that there’s an epidemic and that this is a national public health emergency,” Dr. Leana Wen, the commissioner of public health in Baltimore, told The New York Times June 22. “The number of people overdosing is skyrocketing, and we have no indication that we’ve reached the peak.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said June 6 that drug deaths in the U.S. experienced the largest increase in recorded history in 2016, claiming more than 60,000 lives. He notes early data suggests deaths from opioids and other drugs will continue to increase in 2017.

Drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.

Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years nationally, according to data released by the National Center for Health Statistics Feb. 24. They say lower drug prices and ingredients with higher potency, like fentanyl, are driving the massive increase in heroin and general opioid abuse in the U.S. since 2010.

Authors of the study noted in 2010 only 8 percent of all fatal drug overdoses stemmed from heroin. In 2015, roughly 25 percent of fatal drug overdoses were caused by heroin.

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Steve Birr