Young Females, Black Community Impacted by Opioid Use, Overdose

We know, according to the new Michigan Substance Use Vulnerability Index (MI-SUVI), that St. Clair and Wayne counties are the most vulnerable when it comes to substance use in Southeastern Michigan. Additional data shows that it isn’t just residents of those counties who are vulnerable to opioid use, and related harm, though. Rather the black community and the young female population appear to be amongst the most vulnerable populations when it comes to opioid use, death and related Emergency Department visits.

In general, we know that the number of opioid related deaths are increasing across the State of Michigan.  When examining just the number of opioid related deaths in Southeastern Michigan we also know that Wayne County has the highest number of such deaths, in part due to it having the highest population in the state. However, the chart below shows that in recent years only Wayne and Macomb counties have been experiencing noticeable increases in the number of opioid related deaths. In 2020, Wayne County recorded 706 opioid related deaths and Macomb County reported 269; these are increases from the 660 opioid related deaths Wayne County recorded in 2019 and the 215 Macomb County recorded.  Monroe County also experienced an increase in the number of opioid related deaths between 2019 and 2020.

It should be noted that while the state has some data for opioid related deaths in 2021 it was not accessible at the county level. Additionally, data for opioid related deaths in Oakland County was not available for the year 2018 and beyond; this data was suppressed according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

As the data below shows, males in Michigan have regularly had a higher number of opioid related deaths as compared to women. In 2021 there were 1,528 opioid related deaths amongst Michigan males and 672 amongst Michigan females. (See the chart below.) In 2000, when the data started to be tracked, there were 98 and 25 opioid deaths, respectively. While the number of opioid related overdose deaths for both males and females has been growing, officials are also zeroing on data related to a specific age group of females.

According to the State of Michigan, in 2021, most overdose Emergency Departments visits among young women and girls were intentional and related to self-harm. According to the State, there were 602 more intentional overdose Emergency Department visits among females between the ages of 11-24 years old than in 2020. This was a 30 percent increase. These data further indicate that only 2 percent of that overdose Emergency Departments visits were related to opioids (40% Non-opioid analgesics, antirheumatics, and antipyretics, 25% were related to anti-depressants and 3% were related to psycho-stimulants).

These data indicate how important mental health is in substance use and addiction. That are many factors that impact a person’s mental health, but this recent study by the State highlights how young women are just one group with an increased risk of substance use and its impacts.

The data below shows the number of opioid related deaths for Black males and females and White males and females to further show the details of opioid death trends. While the raw numbers highlight that White Males have always had the highest number of opioid related deaths (1,199 in 2021), followed by White females (542 in 2021), the number of opioid related deaths in the Black male community are rapidly increasing.

In 2000 there were 32 opioid related deaths in the Black male community and by 2021 that increased to 492. The Black female community had 19 reported opioid related deaths in 2000 and by 2021 that increased to 216. The data clearly shows an increase, but we must also be considered that much of this may be related to measurement or aggregation of the data.

According to the Michigan Overdose Data to Action Dashboard, between August 2021 to July 2022 759 Black Michiganders died from an opioid overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the trend we are seeing in Michigan of increased opioid related deaths is also a national trend. According to the institute, Black individuals in four U.S. states(New York, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Ohio) experienced a 38 percent increase in the rate of opioid overdose deaths between 2018 to 2019. Many of these overdoses were driven by heroin and fentanyl, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
While these numbers continue to increase, the focus on the addressing the forces behind these overdose deaths, including the harm reduction from the drugs themselves and the breakdown of societal structures that contribute to them, are increasing. According to NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.,  ”systemic racism fuels the opioid crisis, just as it contributes mightily to other areas of health disparities and inequity, especially for Black people.”
As we have briefly touched on, the way to tackle the opioid epidemic in our state, and our country, is to create multi-faceted policies and programs that directly address specific communities. There is no blanket approach to tackling the opioid epidemic, but as we will show in our next post, several programs in Michigan are making headway.

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