New Website Launched for Opiate and Heroin Abuse in Washtenaw County

Opiate and Heroin Abuse in Washtenaw County

Washtenaw County has seen an increase in opiate overdose deaths since 2012.

Deaths related to opiate overdoses among Washtenaw County residents have increased. Opiates include both prescription painkillers and illicit drugs like heroin. Specifically, deaths involving heroin have increased steadily over the last several years.

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Prescription painkillers are addictive and plentiful in the United States. Hydrocodone, for example, was the number one prescribed drug of any kind in the United States in 2013 according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

After becoming addicted to prescription painkillers, some may turn to heroin when prescription drugs become too costly or too difficult to get.

Overdose deaths involving fentanyl have also increased. Fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances that are made illegally can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.

Fentanyl may stop a victim's breathing almost instantly. It may be found alone or in combination with heroin or other drugs.

The Opioid Project

In response, the Washtenaw County Opioid Project is a collaboration promoting effective solutions based on local data. It brings together law enforcement, public health, hospitals, community mental health, treatment facilities, other providers and community leaders to share resources, build partnerships and combat the epidemic. Washtenaw County Public Health co-leads the Opioid Project in partnership with the Washtenaw Health Initiative.

Opiate Overdose Deaths among Washtenaw County Residents

Summary by gender, age and type of opiate: Opiate Overdose Deaths among Washtenaw County Residents, 2011-2014

During the first quarter of 2015, there were 16 opiate overdose deaths among Washtenaw County residents. Fentanyl was found (alone or in combination with heroin) in seven of these deaths (44%).

2015 Jan-March April-June July-Sept Oct-Dec
Heroin 9
Fentanyl 7
Prescription opiates 3
Total Deaths*  16      

* Some individuals test positive for more than one type of opiate.

Emergency Hospital Admissions Associated with Opiate Overdoses

Washtenaw County Public Health reviews emergency room admissions from local hospitals attributed to opiate overdoses.

From April 2011 to March 2015, over 400 county residents were admitted to University of Michigan or Saint Joseph Mercy hospitals for overdoses associated with opiates. Individuals admitted for unintentional heroin overdoses tend to be younger and male (average age was 32 years and 87% were white). Individuals admitted for unintentional prescription opiate overdoses were older, female (60%) and predominately white (average age 51 was years and 81% were white).

Table by quarter April 2011 - March 2015: Emergency Department Admissions for Unintentional Opiate Overdoses – Washtenaw County Residents Admitted to University of Michigan or Saint Joseph Mercy Hospitals.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a viral illness spread through contact with contaminated blood. Washtenaw County has seen an increase of new infections among young people. New infections are almost all due to intravenous drug use. Blood transfusions are now screened for Hepatitis C and are not a potential source of infection.

Summary of 2014 Hepatitis C cases: Hepatitis C Trends 2014

Graph of Newly Diagnosed Hepatitis C Infection in 18 - 29 yr olds Washtenaw County residents* 2007-2014.

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