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opioid crisis

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President Donald Trump recently declared America's opioid crisis a “national emergency."

Prescription opioids are prescribed for pain, but the medications can be highly addictive. People who become addicted may switch to heroin when they can no longer get pills at the pharmacy or on the black market.

The epidemic is rapidly killing people, something like 90 people a day in the U.S.

While the nation is coming to grips with the opioid crisis, researchers at the University of Michigan have started a group to reduce opioid addiction in this state.

Drew Hayes

Synthetic opioids are evolving so fast, even Michigan’s forensic scientists are caught in a game of cat and mouse: As soon as a new synthetic gets identified, another one pops up.

First it was fentanyl, which can be lethal even in very small doses – far smaller than a lethal dose of heroin. Then it was carfentanil, which made headlines for being even more powerful than fentanyl. And new variations on these synthetics keep turning up in crimes scenes and autopsies.

Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt says at least with carfentanil, they knew what they were dealing with.

“But when you get these synthetic fentanyls, who come from who knows where, you don’t know what their potency is,” he says. “But so far they’ve proven to be more potent than just plain old fentanyl.”

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Monday night, the Lansing city council declared the opioid crisis a public nuisance. It’s a first step toward filing a lawsuit against drug companies.

person shaking prescription pills from bottle into hand
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The founder of a company being sued by Wayne and Oakland counties has been arrested on charges of racketeering, mail fraud, and wire fraud, among others.

Insys Therapeutics is one of the companies named in a broad lawsuit targeting manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs. The lawsuit alleges that a number of companies engaged in misleading and deceptive marketing tactics, and that many failed to report suspicious deliveries of drugs a required by law. 

Needle
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Twelve men face federal charges for their alleged roles in an Oakland County-based drug ring that’s linked to at least one overdose death.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit unsealed an indictment against the men Wednesday.

The indictment alleges the men were part of a “drug trafficking organization known as the TEAM.” The “TEAM” was reportedly a merger of two former street gangs who “joined together to distribute heroin” starting in 2010.

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Patients and surgeons can now find free, online recommendations about how much opioid pain medication to prescribe for 11 common operations.

The guidelines were developed by a team of University of Michigan medical researchers, with the goal of curbing opioid addiction. They include suggested information for health care providers to give patients about post-surgical pain expectations and medication use. 

Michigan Radio

Oakland and Wayne County Executives have filed suit in federal court against 13 opioid drug manufacturers and distributors.

They claim the drug makers' deceptive marketing campaigns over many years contributed heavily to the current opioid addiction crisis.

In 2016, there were 817 opioid-related deaths in Wayne County, a 61 percent increase over the previous year. In Oakland County, opioid-related deaths have risent from 9 in 2009 to 33 in 2015. 


Syringe
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The Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office is hosting an open community meeting on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, to discuss the rising rates of opioid-related fatalities in the county. Nearly 300 people have died in Washtenaw County from opioid overdoses since 2011. In 2016, opioid-related fatalities outnumbered automobile accident fatalities. That reflects overall trends across the country. 

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In 2000, 59 young adults in Michigan between the ages of 18 and 29 were reported as having chronic hepatitis C (HVC). Last year, there 2,060 reported cases in that same age group.

That’s an astonishing 3,391 percent increase within the span of just 16 years.

Those numbers come from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services annual assessment of hepatitis rates, which was released on Wednesday. 

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Health organizations in Michigan just got some more ammunition in the fight against opioid abuse.

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund has awarded nearly $6.5 million dollars in grants to health programs around the state in an effort to address the opioid crisis.  

Becky Cienki, the MHEF's senior program officer, says the grants were made through the fund's behavioral health initiative. The 16 projects that received grants are focused on either substance abuse disorders or mental health.

person shaking prescription pills from bottle into hand
flickr user frankileon / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

State officials say overdose deaths jumped by 18% last year in Michigan with the majority of cases involving opioid abuse.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that nearly 1,700 of the 2,335 overdose deaths in 2016 were opioid-related.

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Doctors would be required to check an electronic monitoring database before prescribing painkillers and other drugs under legislation aimed at preventing opioid addicts from "doctor shopping."

Senate Bills 166 and 167 won approval Thursday in the Michigan Senate and were sent to the House for consideration.

Michigan's per capita rate of opiod painkiller prescriptions is the 10th highest in the U.S.