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Drug Poisoning (Overdose)

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Department of Health and Human Services

Drug Poisoning (Overdose)

Drug poisoning (or drug overdose) can happen when a person takes more of a drug than can be broken down in the body. Overdoses can be fatal. Michigan had 2,738 drug poisoning (overdose) deaths in 2020 the most recent year data available on the MiTracking Data Portal. The number of drug overdose deaths among Michigan residents was over six times higher in 2020 compared to the number in 1999. Opioids are involved in the majority of drug overdose deaths.1 Anyone can become addicted to opioids (known as Opioid Use Disorder), even when prescription opioids are taken as directed.

Drug poisoning (overdose) fatal and nonfatal data are available for all drug and opioid-involved overdoses on the MiTracking data portal. The MODA dashboard contains a wide range of data on substance use disorder, including current trends, harm reduction, and vulnerability.

  • Drugs commonly connected to drug overdose include:

    • Antidepressants.
    • Benzodiazepines (ex: Xanax).
    • Opioids.
      • Prescription.2
      • Fentanyl.
      • Heroin.
    • Stimulants.
      • Amphetamines.
      • Cocaine.
      • Methamphetamine.


  • Opioids can be prescribed by a health care provider or taken/made illegally.

    Prescription Opioids

    Prescription opioids are drugs intended to treat moderate-to-severe pain. Prescribed opioids commonly involved in overdose deaths include methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.

    Prescription opioids can be legally or illegally bought. They can be legitimately manufactured or created in underground labs. Prescription opioids can be made in the U.S. or another country. There is usually no way to tell the source of a prescription drug. In most overdose instances, we only know the substance that a deceased person tested positive for – not how the substance was purchased or what the substance was sold as.

    For more information, visit CDC - Prescription Opioids


    Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a man-made opioid prescribed to treat severe pain.4 Fentanyl is very strong and deadly even in very small amounts. Illegal fentanyl is increasingly used as a “cutting agent” meaning it is added to other drugs, like heroin or cocaine, often without a user knowing.4 In addition, there are variations of fentanyl (called fentanyl analogues) that can be even stronger than fentanyl itself. 

    For more information, visit CDC - Fentanyl.


    Heroin is a strong, illegal opioid.3 It is often used in combination with other substances, such as alcohol, which can increase the risk of an overdose. Heroin is frequently injected, putting users at high risk of serious viral and bacterial infections. 

    For more information, visit CDC - Heroin. 

  • Better Prescribing

    Lowering the number and length of prescriptions for opioids will help lower misuse and overdose numbers. It is important to remember the risks of prescribing opioids can outweigh benefits.6

    Providers can use the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) to:

    • Determine opioid abuse risk.
    • Prevent patients from obtaining opioid prescriptions from multiple providers.
    • Track controlled substances.
    • Talk to patients about the risks of opioid prescriptions.

    For more information, visit CDC - Improve Opioid Prescribing.

    Drug Take-Back Locations         

    Unused prescriptions can be stolen and used by others. Safely storing or properly disposing of these drugs helps decrease abuse and protects the environment. Drugs can be dropped off at take-back locations for safe disposal.

    For more information, visit EGLE - Drug Disposal.

  • Syringe Service Programs (SSPs)

    Michigan has many SSPs across the state which provide a number of services, including:

    • Syringe disposal (safe throwing away of needles).
    • Clean syringe pick-up.
    • Naloxone.
    • Recovery coaching.
    • Help finding care.

    SSPs reconnect marginalized community members to their community. SSPs empower people to make positive changes in their lives. SSPs focus on building relationships and provide people access to other vital services.

    For more information, visit Michigan Syringe Service Programs.


    Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose when given in time. Medicaid will cover Naloxone, and many nonprofit organizations distribute the drug (organizations can request Naloxone through the MDHHS Naloxone portal). Pharmacists can dispense Naloxone without a prescription under Michigan law.

    Learn more about Naloxone in Michigan.

    Michigan’s Good Samaritan Law

    Michigan’s Good Samaritan Law prevents someone from being arrested for illegal drug possession if they are trying to find medical assistance for an overdose in some situations. This law prioritizes saving lives during a drug overdose over criminal prosecutions of persons using illegal drugs.7

    Learn more about Michigan's Good Samaritan Law.

  • Treatment and recovery are possible for individuals with substance use disorder. Many treatment resources are available through:

    • Michigan licensed treatment facilities: An interactive map of Michigan-licensed treatment facilities from Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).
    • Treatment available by county: View contact information to access publicly funded substance use disorder treatment by county (or Detroit).
    • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): MAT involves treating people with opioid, alcohol, or tobacco addiction. MAT uses medications (methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone) with counseling and behavioral therapies.5

    For more information, visit SAMHSA National Hotline.

  • The type of incidents included on MiTracking are fatal and nonfatal all drug and opioid-involved drug poisoning (overdose). Incidents include those that occurred unintentionally or intentionally, such as suicides and homicides. Also included are deaths for which medical examiners could not determine the person’s intent when they took the drug(s).2

    Drug Poisoning (Overdose) MiTracking Indicators

    Indicators are separated into two categories:

    • All drug
    • Opioid

    MiTracking Indicators:

    • Deaths
    • Emergency department visits
    • Hospitalizations

    Drug Poisoning (Overdose) MiTracking Measures

    • Percent of all drug overdose deaths where the drug was unspecified.
    • Number of deaths.
    • Number of ED visits/hospitalizations.
    • Crude rate of deaths per 100,000 people.
    • Crude rate of ED visits/hospitalizations per 100,000 people.
    • Age-adjusted rate of deaths per 100,000 people.
    • Age-adjusted rate of ED visits/hospitalizations per 100,000.

    MiTracking Data Can Tell Us

    • The number and rate of drug overdose in Michigan by year, age group, sex, county, and city of Detroit.
    • If drug overdose rates are increasing or decreasing over time.
    • If part of the population is at higher risk of drug overdose.
    • Where opioid overdose deaths may be underestimated due to the type of drug not being specified.

    MiTracking Data Cannot Tell Us

    • The types of drug(s) involved in the overdose (except in the case of opioid-involved drug poisoning).
    • The total cost, effect, or consequence of drug overdose.

    Find Out More

    Mortality measures were created from the Michigan Resident Death Files, provided by the Michigan Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics (DVRHS).

    Hospitalization and ED data are from Michigan Resident Inpatient and Outpatient Files, created using data from the Michigan Inpatient Database and Michigan Outpatient Database obtained with permission from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) Service Corporation. Contact MHA at for more information.

    For additional data information visit:

  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    Drug Overdose

    Pregnancy and Opioid Pain Medications (Fact Sheet)

    Prescription Opioids: What you need to know (Fact Sheet)

    Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA)

    Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission

    Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)

    Drug Disposal Site

    Michigan State Police

    Angel Program – A program aimed at bringing together law enforcement, community volunteers, and individuals seeking assistance to reduce dependency with drug and alcohol addiction (Substance Use Disorder (SUD)) in Michigan.

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

    Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit

    1. MDHHS. Opioids. Accessed October 30, 2023.
    2. Rudd RA, Aleshire N, Zibbell JE, Matthew Gladden R. Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths-United States, 2000-2014. American journal of transplantation. 2016;16:1323-1327.
    3. CDC. Opioids: heroin. Accessed October 30, 2023.
    4. CDC. Opioids: fentanyl. Accessed October 30, 2023.
    5. CDC. Opioids: treat opioid use disorder. Accessed October 30, 2023.
    6. CDC. Opioid overdose: prescription opioids. Accessed October 30, 2023.
    7. MDHHS. Michigan’s Good Samaritan Law. Accessed October 30, 2023.