From the Detroit News: "Snyder officials take on painkiller overdose 'epidemic'"

Lt. Gov. Calley is chair of the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force

***Originally posted by the Detroit News

There is a growing prescription drug and opioid problem in Michigan, and Governor Rick Snyder and Lt. Governor Brian Calley are leading an effort to address the issue.

Created in June 2015, the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force is a result of the call for a comprehensive plan to address prescription drug and opioid abuse in the governor’s 2015 State of the State address.

The Detroit News highlighted the task force, chaired by Lt. Gov. Calley, in article published on October 12 and written by Gary Heinlein and Joel Kurth.

The Snyder administration is battling a surge in overdose deaths in Michigan linked to the abuse of pain and anxiety medications — an issue experts say was previously almost invisible to the public outside the families dealing with it.

Later this month, a committee headed by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will make recommendations for addressing Michigan’s part in what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls America’s “unprecedented drug overdose epidemic.”

Prescription drug and opioid addiction has led to a fivefold increase in drug deaths in Michigan since 1999, a trend that Calley said leaders “must come together to reverse ... before more Michiganders are hurt.”

Opioids are powerful pain killers that are highly addictive. Opioid dependence affects millions of people in the United States and prescribed opioids can lead to the use of highly addictive and dangerous illegal substances, especially heroin. 

Opioid analgesics or painkillers accounted for 1,001 or nearly 20 percent of the 5,062 Michigan deaths caused by “unintentional drug poisonings” between 2009 and 2013, according to state statistics.

The state’s health department has said overdose deaths linked to opioids were increasing at a faster rate than for illegal drugs such as heroin — also on the rise — and cocaine. A state report also noted that another class of medications called benzodiazepines — prescribed for anxiety — accounted for about 9 percent of deaths.

The pattern of prescription abuse in Michigan mirrors a national trend.

According to a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, the proportion of overdose deaths attributed to opioid painkillers doubled from 30 percent to 60 percent between 1999 and 2010. Opioid overdoses caused 16,651 deaths in 2010 alone, the report said.

The bipartisan task force will examine the recent trends, evaluate strategic options, and develop a statewide action plan later this fall. The Fiscal Year 2016 budget includes $1.5 million to address statewide concerns on this issue.

Click here to read the entire article in the Detroit News: Snyder officials take on painkiller overdose ‘epidemic’