Facts about opioid users (that may surprise you)

Posted at 2:13 PM, Oct 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-24 14:13:57-04

The phrase “drug addicts” might bring to mind people living on the street or doing anything they can for their next hit. While that exists, it is not how the majority of addicts live.

In fact, with more than 23 million Americans addicted to drugs, according to a report by Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap, many live what might be considered regular lives, working jobs and hiding their addiction.

The latest statistics available show 2015 was Michigan’s third consecutive year of record drug over dose deaths. In Wayne County, Michigan, the number of drug-related deaths has increased — there were 400 opioid overdose deaths in 2015. (There were 575 all-drug overdose deaths.)

The Wayne County medical examiner reports that of 815 drug-related deaths in the county from October 2014 to September 2015, 50 percent were because of fentanyl. The stats show:

• 312 deaths were caused by heroin overdose
• 412 deaths were caused by fentanyl overdose
• 210 deaths were caused by other opioid use (56 listed as morphine or opiates use)
• 296 were caused by cocaine overdose

Ninety-five percent of the drug-related deaths that year were accidental, the Wayne County medical examiner said.

If there is any good news for Michigan during this opioids epidemic, it’s that prescriptions for medication decreased in 2016, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.


Drug use is often attributed to young people, but the fastest growing group of opioid addicts is people ages 50-69, according to Medscape Medical News. Some triggers unique to seniors include retirement, death of a loved one, having to move and mental or physical decline, according to Addiction Center.

While people 40 and older are more likely to use opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those age 25-54 are more likely to die from an overdose.


Women are more likely than men to use opioids, but men are more likely to die from an overdose, according to the CDC.

What may be surprising is, when it comes to overdose deaths, the gap between genders is closing, the CDC says. Additionally, women are more likely to be given higher doses of pain reliever drugs and become dependent on them more quickly than men, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

“For most age groups, men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than do women,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse says. “However, women are just as likely as men to become addicted. In addition, women may be more susceptible to craving and relapse, which are key phases of the addiction cycle.”



Income and resources

Although opioid prescriptions are more common for patients with a high socioeconomic status, according to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, overdose deaths are more common for people with a low socioeconomic status.

The keys to understanding this peculiar situation are social and economic factors, according to research in Public Health Reports.

“They affect health indirectly by shaping individual drug-use behavior; they affect health directly by affecting the availability of resources, access to social welfare systems, marginalization and compliance with medication,” the researchers write.

Legal drugs obtained illegally

The reason for these unexpected faces of addiction may stem from the fact that opioids are legal, versus heroin or cocaine, and addicts often are put on the road to addiction through an innocent prescription. Over time, patients may doctor-shop, visiting many doctors to refill a prescription.

Overwhelmingly, though, the most common way to get opioids for illegal use is from a loved one.

“Most non-medical users get the drugs from a friend or relative, often for free but occasionally buying or stealing them," says.

How to help

During one of the most widely known methods, an intervention, include only people who will offer love and support.

“Avoid including people who cannot contain their judgment or temper their emotions,” says. “If you need, you can enlist the help of an interventionist who can take the reins in the planning and implementation of the meeting.”

If a direct approach won’t work, some families have success with a treatment that helps them work with an addict, instead of targeting the person.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority at 1-800-241-4949. Someone is there to help you 24/7.