Drug Deaths Continue to Increase in Metro-Detroit

According to the most recent data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, drug-induced death rates are higher throughout Southeastern Michigan than alcohol-induced death rates. In 2016, according to the data, St. Clair County had the highest drug-induced death rate at 46.4 per 100,000 residents; Wayne County had the second highest rate at 41.4 per 100,000 residents. Regionally, Washtenaw County had the lowest rate at 20.8 per 100,000 residents. According to a recent New York Times article that focuses on 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control, Michigan experienced more than a 10 percent increase in overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017, much of which can be attributed to synthetic opioids. The article states that with increased funding for public health programs related to mental health and substance abuse policies there is “optimism” that overdose death rates will at least begin to stabilize in the future. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan’s drug-induced death rate was 9 in 2000, having only continued to increase to 27.5 per 100,000 residents in 2016. All counties in the Southeastern Michigan region had seen similar increases in that time period as well.

While Wayne County had one of the highest drug-induced mortality rates in Southeastern Michigan, it had one of the lowest alcohol-induced mortality rates at 7.9 per 100,000 residents in 2016. The only other two counties in the region with lower alcohol-induced mortality rates were Oakland (7.4) and Washtenaw (7.7). St. Clair County had the highest alcohol-induced mortality rate at 16.3 per 100,000 residents in 2016.

Although the media attention has not been as high on alcohol-induced deaths as drug-induced deaths, a recent University of Michigan study did show that deaths related to cirrhosis (a liver disease often related to alcohol consumption) increased 65 percent between 1999 and 2016; it also stated there was a 10.5 percent increase in cirrhosis related deaths for 25-34 year olds.

Macomb County sees largest rate increases for drug-, alcohol-induced deaths

As with other regions Southeastern Michigan has rising drug-related death rates, which the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have attributed to increased use and abuse of opioids. According to the CDC, opioid overdose death is an epidemic that can be found within even the quietest communities. In 2013, on the national scale, drug overdoses were the leading causes of injury death and 51 percent of those deaths were related to prescription drugs. While data at the county level on opioid specific deaths was unavailable, below are maps showing how drug-induced death rates have increased in every Southeastern Michigan county (where data is available) between 2003 and 2013. In addition to an increase in drug-induced death rates since 2003 there has also been an increase in alcohol-induced death rates and “all other causes” of death.

All of the information presented in this presented was obtained from the CDC. According to the CDC, data is unreliable if the number of deaths for a specific cause is too small to create an accurate rate. Additionally, some counties have suppressed rates, meaning the information obtained is below the determined “cut-off” value and the conditions for suppression are met, according to the CDC. Rates are per 100,000 residents.

Metro-Detroit Drug-induced Deaths 2003

Metro-Detroit Drug Induced Deaths 2013

Macomb County had the highest increase in drug-induced death rates between 2003 and 2013, with the rate climbing 16.2 per 100,000. In 2013 Macomb County had the second highest drug-induced death rate though at 29.2; Monroe County had the highest rate at 30.6. It was Washtenaw County that had the lowest drug-induced death rate in 2013 at 16.1; in 2003 the Washtenaw’s drug-induced death rate was 8.9.

In 2003 Monroe and St. Clair counties had too few drug-induced deaths (18 and 12, respectively) for reliable rates to be created. However, with such low drug-induced death numbers in 2003 for those two counties we can infer that Monroe and St. Clair counties also experienced an increase in their rates between 2003 and 2013, especially since the CDC was able to determine rates for 2013.

According to the CDC, those between the ages of 25 and 54 have the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths. While rates for drug-induced deaths at these age levels were not explicitly available, the data does show that Macomb County had 157 drug-induced deaths for residents between the ages of 25 and 54 in 2013. Monroe County had at least 20 such deaths, however numbers were not available for the 35-44 age group because the numbers were too small to report.

Metro-Detroit Alcohol Induced Deaths 2003

Metro-Detroit Alcohol Induced Deaths 2013

While there were fewer alcohol-induced deaths than drug-induced deaths in both 2003 and 2013 in each county with available data, there was still across-the-board increases between those dates. Of those documented rate increases, Macomb County again had the largest increase between 2003 and 2013 at 3.2. In 2013 Macomb County also had the highest alcohol-induced death rate of the counties in the region; this rate was 10.8.

Livingston, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties had to few of deaths for accurate rates to be presented.

Metro-Detroit Deaths 2003

Metro-Detroit Deaths 2013

As expected, the death rates for all other death throughout the region were much higher than either and both drug- and alcohol-induced death rates. One trend to note is that “other causes” death rates also increased between 2003 and 2013. St. Clair County had the largest increase at 184.9; its death rate in 2003 was 870.8 and in 2013 it was 1055.7. In 2013 St. Clair County had the highest rate and Washtenaw County had the lowest.

Just a few weeks ago we drilled down on how the death rate for white, middle aged population is increasing, largely in part to suicide and substance abuse. While numbers were unavailable for alcohol- and drug-induced death rates at the county levels for age groups, this post does highlight how deaths related to alcohol and drugs have been increasing over the last 10 years.