Michigan seeing more opioid overdoses during coronavirus pandemic
The number of opioid overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic has
increased dramatically across the state, according to new data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Emergency medical services responses for opioid overdoses from April through June were up 26% over the same period in 2019.
Between April and May of this year, as the coronavirus decimated Michigan and the nation, EMS responses for opioid overdoses rose 33%.
The increase in overdoses were consistent throughout the state and in most demographic groups, except for those ages 65 and older, the MDHHS said.
For months, experts have predicted that overdoses would increase during the pandemic due to isolation, boredom, job loss and other financial crisis. Those factors are compounded by fewer spots being available in rehab facilities because social distancing reduces the number of patients that can be admitted and there has been reduced access to in-person support groups because of restrictions on large gatherings.
The newly-released numbers also reveal that opioid overdose patients were more likely to refuse EMS transport to a hospital. Between April and June 2019, 7.7% of overdose patients declined transport to an emergency room, compared with 14.3% between April and June of this year.
More: Another casualty in the coronavirus pandemic: People who need drug rehab
More: Michigan reports 996 additional coronavirus cases, two new deaths
“Opioid overdoses kill far too many Michiganders, and it’s a double tragedy that the pandemic has exacerbated this crisis,” Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, chief deputy director for health and chief medical executive for the state health department, said in a statement.
She urged people with opioid use issues to seek treatment. If they are not ready to seek treatment, she urged them to work on ways to reduce the likelihood of dying of an overdose by practicing harm reduction.
“If you or someone you love has an opioid use disorder, please take steps to prevent overdose deaths – like carrying naloxone and never using alone,” she said. (Naloxone, known by the brand name, Narcan, reverses opioid overdoses.)
People who use opioids alone are more likely to die because there is no one around to call for help or revive them in case of an overdose. The state provided information on neverusealone.com, a national helpline with workers who will stay on the phone with someone who is getting high. More info: 800-484-3731. If no answer: 931-304-9452.
In 2018, the most recent year for which numbers are available, 2,036 people — or five
a day – died ofopioid overdoses in Michigan.
For info: https://www.michigan.gov/opioids/
Coping with addiction during the pandemic: https://bit.ly/3gd0AGH
On harm reduction: https://bit.ly/3hQOfIm and neverusealone.com
For naloxone (brand name: Narcan): https://bit.ly/2X8qVxT
For needle exchange sites: https://bit.ly/3fbNc47
Crisis help lines: https://bit.ly/2DmikAD
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