DETROIT (WXYZ) — Local health systems are getting slammed with two alarming trends right now: Spikes in COVID-19 cases and soaring overdose numbers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100,000 Americans have died of an overdose between May 2020 and April 2021. Rising overdoses are impacting the entire country, with all but four states seeing climbing death tolls.
According to the CDC data, the states with the largest spikes were Vermont with a 70% increase, West Virginia with a 62% increase and Kentucky with a 55% increase.
Michigan's overdose numbers are up nearly 20% compared to last year.
Emergency physician and Medical Director of Opiate Use Disorder at Beaumont Hospital in Troy said the health care system is seeing around a 20% spike in overdoses as well, reflecting the national and state trends.
This is coming as hospitals are already stretched thin due to COVID-19 cases spiking.
“Across the health system, we’ve seen roughly 2,000 overdoses in the last 10 to 11 months," Eckenswiller said.
It's a mixture, he said, of regular drug users and those unaware of what they're actually taking.
“People can come in, think they’re at a party and they’re taking cocaine or an amphetamine or something and they don’t know that it’s actually laced with a very potent, powerful opiate," Eckenswiller told 7 Action News.
Fentanyl, a synthetic drug often mixed in with other opiates, can be lethal even in small amounts and is often hard to detect.
“It’s becoming increasingly prevalent, available, inexpensive," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.
Bouchard said more fentanyl "without question" is on the streets of Oakland County this year.
In an effort to combat this growing problem, the Oakland County Jail is one of the first in Michigan to launch a program with the help of Wayne State University. It's a vending machine that provides free Naloxone — brand name Narcan — to inmates who are leaving.
Naloxone is lifesaving as it can reverse the effects of opioids, which has proven critical to first responders arriving at overdose calls.
“When they’re in the jail, there’s a program that we have called MAT: Medically Assisted Treatment. But when they go back out, we want to send them out armed with the tool to maybe save a friend," Bouchard said.
Narcan's impact is something Bouchard sees on a daily basis. Just last week, his deputies revived three people in just 12 hours.
While health care providers are concerned with this large jump in overdose numbers, worsening addictions is also a big concern, said Erika Alexander with Oakland Family Services. She's counseled both kids and adults battling addiction.
"We’re seeing a lot of instances of individuals with worsening substance use disorders," Alexander said, attributing the problem in part to the stress of the pandemic.
Dr. Andrew King is an emergency physician at the Detroit Medical Center. He is also the medical director of the Michigan Poison Center and an addiction specialist with Wayne Health. He said the pandemic has exacerbated opioid abuse and reports that DMC has seen increases in overdoses of opioids and alcohol.
“Time is not a luxury for patients, especially after an overdose," he said, urging opioid users to carry Narcan.
King also said that in recent years, area emergency rooms have started working together to help connect patients who are battling addiction with resources to help.
“After a non-fatal overdose, if someone comes in and doesn’t die and we’re able to bring them back, their risk of death in the next year is 5%, so 1 out of 20 people," he said.
Below are resources for those battling addiction and looking for help:
- Michigan Poison Center: https://www.poison.med.wayne.edu/substance-use-disorder
- Substance Abuse & Mental Health Administration: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
- Oakland Family Services: https://www.oaklandfamilyservices.org/treatment
- MDHHS: https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71550_2941_4871_4877---,00.html