Opioids still leading cause of drug deaths

It’s a chore to summon any real enthusiasm about a mixed-bag of statistics reported Thursday in The Detroit News and elsewhere relative to the number of Michigan residents dying from opioid overdose.

The News reported that although a new record was set in 2017 for OD deaths, fewer of them were caused by deadly opioids.

Such as they are, here are the numbers. According to the News, preliminary data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for 2017 showed 1,941 of the 2,729 overdose deaths were opioid-related. That was an 8.7 percent increase from the 1,786 opioid-related deaths in 2016, which was a slower growth rate than last year’s massive 35 percent jump in opioid-related overdose deaths. Records show there were 1,320 deaths in 2015 from opioids, which include heroin, prescription opioids, and nonpharmaceutical fentanyl.

A little more than one year ago, state officials issued a standing order to pre-approve pharmacists so they could distribute naloxone, a fast-acting, potentially life-saving medication that reverses an opioid overdose — to those at risk of an opioid-related overdose.

The order also covered family members, friends and others who might help a person at risk of overdose, the News report stated.

So there it is, a slowing death rate but one that’s still rising.

And, regrettably, it’s unclear at this writing what can reasonably be done to stem it.

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