Opioid Deaths Rising in Washtenaw County

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Opioid overdoses are rising again in Washtenaw County, according to the Washtenaw County Health Department.

There were 78 opioid deaths in 2021 - up from 61 in 2020 and 60 in 2019.

The number is still slightly below the 81 recorded in 2018.

According to the county press release, 82 percent of opioid overdose deaths among county residents from January 2021 to May 2022 involved fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. Most opioid deaths also involved other substances. More than half of all opioid overdose deaths  involved stimulants - most often cocaine, followed by methamphetamine, according to the health department. An emerging substance is Xylazine, often added to fentalyl that's  tranquilizer not approved for human use.

"Most opioid-related deaths involve fentanyl, additional substances, or other drugs added to illicit opioids,” says Jimena Loveluck, MSW, Washtenaw County Health Department health officer. “People may unknowingly ingest fatal doses of fentanyl or other substances, which can seriously increase the risk of a life-threatening overdose. It’s incredibly important to use extreme caution: never use alone and have naloxone on hand."

Most residents who died of an opioid overdose were White (81%), male (71%), and between 25-44 years old (60%). There were a disproportionate number of Black/African American residents who died from an opioid overdose (19%), compared to the county level population of Black/African American residents (12%).  Additional data is available in the Washtenaw County Health Department’s new September 2022 Opioid Report: https://bit.ly/wchdopioid22. Visit www.washtenaw.org/opioids for additional opioid reports and data.

Overdose prevention resources

Naloxone (also known as Narcan) is a safe medication that counteracts the dangerous effects of an opioid overdose. There are several ways to get free naloxone in Washtenaw County.

Recovery is possible. Find local stories of recovery, medication disposal sites, materials, and more harm reduction and treatment resources at www.washtenaw.org/ItIsPossible.

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