Michigan Has More Annual Opioid Prescriptions Than People

By Kelly Burch 06/30/17

The state has had a 41% increase in opioid prescriptions since 2009. 

Process of production of pills,

We often hear about the toll of the opioid epidemic in states like Ohio, New Hampshire and West Virginia. However, alarming new data out of Michigan shows how pervasive the opioid epidemic is in states that aren’t regularly making the news.

In Michigan, research shows that enough opioid prescriptions were written in 2016 to provide each resident in the state with 84 doses of the drugs. 

According to data from MLive, in 2016 Michigan healthcare providers wrote 11 million prescriptions for opioids, about 1.1 scripts for each resident of the state. Broken down by the amount of pills and patches that means that each Michigan resident could have 84 doses of opioids last year. The alarming rates represent a 41% increase in opioid prescriptions since 2009. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that there is no reason for the vast differences in prescription rates around the country. 

"Prescribing rates for opioids vary widely across different states,” the CDC website reads. “In 2012, health care providers in the highest-prescribing state wrote almost 3 times as many opioid prescriptions per person as those in the lowest prescribing state. Health issues that cause people pain do not vary much from place to place."

The prescription rates was only the beginning of the alarming rates in Michigan. Data also showed that deaths from heroin and other opioids have doubled between 2012 and 2016. That is likely underreported, since the data only used report from death certificates, which have been shown to underreport opioid-related deaths. In the state, opioid deaths now claim more lives than traffic fatalities and gun deaths, mirroring a national trend

While opioid deaths have skyrocketed in Michigan, overdoses from other types of drugs have remained relatively stable. In 1999, opioid-related deaths accounted for 22% of overdoses in the state, but they now make up 67% of opioid deaths. 

Heroin gets a lot of attention, but the data showed that Michigan residents are more than twice as likely to fatally overdose on prescription drugs than they are to overdose on heroin. In 2015 there were 884 deaths attributed to prescription drugs, and 391 caused by heroin. Heroin deaths actually declined from 2014, when there were 433 deaths reported, while prescription drug deaths increased sharply from 568 in 2014. 

Michigan had a hospitalization rate slightly above the national average, with 230 opioid-related hospital stays per 100,000 residents, compared with 225 on average nationally. That was an increase of 21% since 2009. Nationally, the hospitalization rate rose an average of 24% during that time. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.