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Alcohol and Substance Abuse Epidemiology Program

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) receives federal funding to conduct public health surveillance on the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on Michigan's population. The Bureau of Disease Control, Prevention, and Epidemiology provides epidemiological support to programmatic efforts related to alcohol and drugs provided by other Michigan and national agencies. More information on treatment services is available from the Office of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care.


drinks containing alcohol

Excessive alcohol use, either in the form of heavy drinking (drinking more than two drinks per day on average for men or more than one drink per day on average for women), or binge drinking (drinking five or more drinks during a single occasion for men or four or more drinks during a single occasion for women), can lead to increased risk of health problems, such as liver disease or unintentional injuries. 1 While most adults consume alcohol responsibly, there is a growing need to understand the relationship between alcohol use, particularly excessive use and its harmful effects in Michigan.

The MDHHS, Bureau of Disease Control, Prevention, and Epidemiology receives support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct public health surveillance on how alcohol affects Michigan's population. Our focus consists of monitoring alcohol-related disease and negative societal outcomes with a special interest in youth to develop environmental and policy indicators for Michigan.

Policy Briefs

Surveillance Briefs

Fact Sheets

Substance Abuse

picture of prescription and illegal drugsSubstance abuse is defined as the continued usage of drugs or alcohol to the extent that it results in significant impairment, including interference with one's work, home, social relationships, or health in the previous 12 months.

The non-medical use of prescription type-drugs (the use of drugs without a prescription or only for the intention of experiencing the drug's effects) has increased dramatically across the nation. The effects of substance abuse are far-reaching, extending beyond individuals to families and society. Therefore, there is an urgency to monitor the burden of substance and prescription drug abuse in Michigan.

The Bureau of Disease Control, Prevention, and Epidemiology monitors the abuse of illegal, prescription and over-the-counter drugs to support agencies and communities in their actions to reduce the burden associated with drugs and other substances in Michigan and improve the overall quality of life of Michigan's residents. Because there is large overlap between substance abuse and mental health, the Bureau is also interested in monitoring the co-occurrence of these public health issues.

Fact Sheets

To learn more about alcohol and drug abuse in Michigan, see the reports and resources provided below.



Overall, 60 percent of Michigan adults, aged 18 and older, used alcohol in the past month, while 16 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 consumed alcohol. In addition, 27 percent of adults and 10 percent of youth binge drank in the past month. 2 Excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death for people in the United States each year. From 2001-2005, there were approximately 79,000 deaths annually attributable to excessive alcohol use in the United States. 1

In 2008, there were approximately 190,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol in the United States. 1

Substance Abuse

According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2010-2011, 10.7 percent of Michigan residents aged 12 years and older reported using illicit drugs in the past month. When marijuana was excluded, the estimated use dropped to 3.6 percent. 3

In 2008, poisoning surpassed motor vehicle crashes to become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. 4 Since 2003, over 90 percent of all poisonings have involved drugs, with the largest increase in poisonings related to opioid analgesics (pain relievers). 5, 6 A similar national pattern has also been seen in Michigan with poisonings exceeding motor vehicle crashes to become the leading cause of injury death in Michigan in 2009. 7

Drug Withdrawal in Newborns

The number of U.S. newborns diagnosed with symptoms of drug withdrawal nearly tripled in 10 years due to increasing opiate use among pregnant women. 8 These newborns with Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome (NWS, also known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS) are more likely to have trouble breathing, low birth weight, feeding difficulties, and seizures. A recent study by MDHHS documents this problem in Michigan and highlights the increased costs due to their longer hospital stays.

Use of Synthetic Marijuana (known as "Spice"/"K2")

Since the increase in popularity of synthetic marijuana in 2010, new forms of synthetic marijuana have appeared. These substances contain ingredients that act in the same way as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Legislation making ingredients in synthetic marijuana illegal in Michigan went into effect in October 2010; since then, synthetic cannabinoids have been added to the list of Schedule l controlled substances as discovery and investigation continues.

The Michigan Regional Poison Control Center (PCC) at DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan monitors the number of cases called in by the general public and health care providers due to synthetic marijuana exposure. The PCC reports the number of cases increased between January 1, 2010 through June 2012 in Michigan; with a total of 533 emergency department visits involving THC homologs reported. Subsequently, the number of cases involving THC use reported to the Poison Control Center has decreased, even as more synthetic cannabinoids have been placed onto Schedule l.

Although there are no mandated reporting requirements, PCC conducts ongoing surveillance. Hospitals are encouraged to report cases even if advice is not needed, as PCC is an agent of MDHHS for designer drugs. The PCC encourages hospitals to contact them by calling 1-800-222-1222.

Substituted Phenethylamines

Emergency department visits using cathinones, or "bath salts," began becoming increasingly prevalent in 2010 and 2011. These "bath salts" are part of the substituted phenethylamine class of chemicals, of which several others are also emerging. Such phenethylamines include MDMA, MDA, and other hallucinogenic amphetamines. From January 2012 through March 2013, 70 emergency department visits involved substituted phenethylamines.

A complete report of Michigan cases between November 2010 and March 2011 was published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Relevant Regulations

Although there is no mandated reporting requirement, as part of the PCC's ongoing surveillance of designer drugs, the PCC encourages hospitals to contact them by calling 1-800-222-1222. Further information and fact sheets are listed below.

Poster Presentations

Web Links

Fact Sheets and Reports

Contact Us

For more information, call the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-648-6942.