Monroe County had highest rate of heroin deaths in 2012

Drug overdose death rates have risen steadily since 1970, increasing fivefold since 1990. According to the Center for Disease Control, the most common drugs associated with these deaths are heroin, cocaine and opioid painkillers. Of the three, heroin causes the highest number of deaths in Southeast Michigan, according to the Center for Disease Control.

[Footnote: From CDC: ]


While Wayne County had the highest number of heroin deaths recorded in 2012 (62), when adjusted for population Macomb and Monroe counties had the highest rates (rates were calculated using 2012 population estimates from the American Community Survey).

Heroin is inextricably linked to opioid use, as many heroin users start with abusing opioid prescriptions and then graduate to illicit drugs. In the last 20 years, there has been a tenfold increase in the medical use of opioid painkillers, and with this expansion, there has been an increasing rate of opioid overdoses. In Southeast Michigan, Wayne County had the highest number of opioid deaths and Monroe County had the highest rate.

[From CDC:

From CDC:]


In the mid-2000s, a number of policies were enacted throughout the United States aimed at decreasing opioid misuse. Michigan created a law in 2010 to discourage the practice of “doctor shopping” in order to obtain prescription drugs, while some drugs, like OxyContin, were retooled to deter abuse by making them more difficult to crush. Since the mid-2000s, heroin death rates have increased dramatically.

[From State of Michigan:

New England Journal of Medicine:]


While the trends for the opiate death rates are sporadic, this is likely due to the low number of deaths recorded during the time period, where a single instance can cause a huge uptick. However, there were visible upward trends in Wayne, Macomb and Monroe counties, with smaller upward trends in Washtenaw and St. Clair counties.

The heroin trends, however, are more pronounced, with a clear increase occurring between 2005 and 2012. One interesting point of note is that although Wayne County had the highest number of heroin deaths its rates generally remained consistent. Macomb, Monroe, and St. Clair counties, on the other hand, start the millennium off with generally low rates that noticeably spiked, and continued to remain high. However, for both heroin and opiate deaths Macomb County decreased from 2011-2012.

From 2000-2012, heroin accounted for 1,764 deaths in the Southeast Michigan area, opiates accounted for 534, and cocaine accounted for 500. Wayne County had the highest number of cocaine related deaths in 2012, with 39. However, when adjusted for population, St. Clair County had the highest rate, followed closely by Wayne, Macomb and Monroe counties.


One item of note is that across all drugs, Oakland County consistently had the lowest overdose rates. Further research as to why that is may be useful. Polices that have been suggested to reduce overdose deaths include enhanced use of antidotes like naxalone, better access to treatment programs, and Good Samaritan 911 laws (where people reporting overdoses are given immunity), among others, although the effects of these programs have yet to be adequately studied.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *