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Data still coming in, but Michigan drug deaths are trending up for 2017

U.S. Centers for Disease Control

While official data is still coming in, it appears that Michigan’s drug overdose deaths are continuing their upward trajectory since the start of 2017.

According to projections from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released earlier this month, Michigan saw 2,662 drug-related deaths in 2017. That’s up 8.3 percent over the prior year, and the CDC notes that prediction is "underreported due to incomplete data."

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has not released official 2017 statewide overdose numbers yet. But data from local jurisdictions also suggest a continued increase.

Official data just released from Macomb County pegs the number of overdose deaths at 380 last year—an all-time reported high. Of those, 317 are linked to opioids.

Macomb County Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Spitz says the big driver behind the upward trend is the rise of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which have made their way into the larger drug supply.

“You can see primarily that these are opiates being the big problem, and of the opiates, really fentanyl is the primary drug,” Spitz said.

“These are very potent drugs, much more potent than typical opiates. And I think that’s one of the main reasons why we’re seeing so many deaths.”

Spitz said the county had 199 deaths linked to fentanyl in 2017—a jump of more than 38 percent from 2016. Overall, drug overdose deaths in the county were up more than 6 percent from the prior year.

Credit Macomb County Medical Examiner annual report

“Overdose deaths involving poly-drug combinations of opioids with other substances such as cocaine” are also up, Spitz said. 

Data released by neighboring Wayne County, including the city of Detroit, reflect even bigger increases.

The county recorded a total of 848 drug-related deaths in 2017, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office. The vast majority had opiates somewhere in the mix, and 430 involved fentanyl.

Those 2017 numbers are a 27.5 percent jump for Wayne County, which reported a total of 665 deaths to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services deaths in 2016.

The state reported a total of 2376 drug-related deaths that year. There were just 455 in 1999.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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