More Opioid Scripts Than People Are Only One Sign of Michigan’s Drug Problem

Michigans Drug Problem

The drug statistics in Michigan are dire, reflecting the rising drug problem across the rest of the United States. According to, Michigan was the 4th ranked state in the country for drug use in 2018. A major factor in the state’s drug problem is the high number of opioid prescriptions. As reported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) data shows 11.4 million opioid prescriptions were written, which is 115 for every 100 people.

Opioid Scripts in Michigan

Prescription pain relievers include drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin and and codeine. When prescribed for pain and used appropriately, they serve their purpose. The problem arises because these drugs can be highly addictive, and are thus often abused. In Michigan, statistics show that prescription opioids account for more than twice the number of heroin-related overdose deaths. And Michigan had 2,033 overdose deaths involving opioids in 2017a rate of 21.2 deaths per 100,000 persons, which is higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons.

Other Overdose Deaths

Opioid-related deaths are not the only sign that Michigan has a drug problem. Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show a disturbing upward trend of overdose deaths from not only prescription opioids but also heroin and fentanyl.

  • Deaths involving synthetic opioids (mainly fentanyl), rose from 72 deaths in 2012 to 1,368 in 2017.
  • In the same five-year period, deaths involving heroin increased from 263 to 783 deaths.

Other Problem Drugs and Regions In Michigan

Other substances contributing to Michigan’s rising drug problems across the state are methamphetamines, cocaine, MDMA (“Molly”) and the aforementioned fentanyl and heroin.

Methamphetamines are on the rise in Michigan, and as late as 2018 county officials were reporting that its current form is much more potent than previous versions. As reported by Interlochen Public Radio, crystal meth use continues to climb. In Marquette County 100 meth felonies were prosecuted in 2018, more than 2016 and 2017 combined. Wexford County saw an alarming rise in meth seized by police: from 12 grams to 429 grams in just one year.

Heroin, derived from morphine and highly addictive, is on the rise in Michigan as well. Many who start out abusing prescription drugs often transition into using heroin because it’s cheaper. Heroin is a manufactured drug and often finds its way into the United States via Canada and then through major metropolitan areas like Detroit. In Washtenaw County the 2012 statistics were astounding, with an 80 percent increase in heroin-related arrests and a 375 percent increase in heroin manufacturing and sales over a three-year period.

Cocaine is another powerfully addictive substance, made from the leaves of the coca plant. In Michigan it is often distributed via the major metropolitan areas like Detroit to smaller towns. In 2018 a man was arrested in Benzie County in what was considered the largest drug bust for that county and Northern Michigan. He had received $300,000 worth of cocaine in the mail, which was most likely going to then be distributed to surrounding counties. In another drug bust in Saginaw, seven residents were accused of distributing more than a pound of cocaine across multiple counties.

Fentanyl is an opioid pain reliever that does have medical uses, but when produced on the black market illegally it can be dangerously potent, even more potent than heroin. It is typically cheaper to manufacture and is often added to heroin or cocaine. As recently as 2017, fentanyl has been a major problem in Northern Michigan. As seen in an article by the Cadillac News, law enforcement in the Cadillac area has seen a major increase in fentanyl and carfentanyl, which is 10,000 time more potent than morphine. There were multiple confirmed deaths in Benzie and Grand Traverse counties due to carfentanyl.

Molly, the pure form of MDMA or methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is popularly known as a party drug used at raves. As far back as 2013, Molly has been a problem in Michigan, specifically Oakland County. According to an article in the Royal Oak Tribune, users are as young as sixteen to twenty-four. The problem with Molly is that too much can lead to dehydration, overheating and even death.

HIDTA Designated Regions

Another indicator of the state’s rising drug problem is that twelve counties in Michigan were designated “HIDTA” or “High Incidence Drug Trafficking Areas,” as of 2018: Allegan, Genesee, Kalamazoo, Kent, Macomb, Muskegon, Oakland, Saginaw, St. Clair, Van Buren, Washtenaw, and Wayne county. An HIDTA is defined as a significant area of illegal drug production, manufacturing, importation or distribution. State, local and tribal law enforcement have also had to commit significant resources to this area to respond to the threat, and drug activity in this region has a negative impact there.

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