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Preliminary data: Michigan opioid overdoses up in 2020

Preliminary data suggest that opioid overdoses rose in Michigan this year, according to a University of Michigan database.

The U of M Injury Prevention Center tracks opioid overdoses reported by county medical examiners, and EMS administrations of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, in close to real time.

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Credit University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center

Its dashboard shows that as of December 31, there were 2,141 fatal opioid overdoses in 2020. There were also at least 15,549 naloxone administrations—although that number is almost certainly higher due to a software reporting glitch. In 2018, there were 2,036 fatal overdoses.

There’s been a lot of speculation about a possible link to the COVID-19 pandemic. An analysis performed for the state found that based on data from March-September, suspected fatal overdoses statewide were up 15% from the same months in 2019, while naloxone administrations were up almost 29%.

U of M statistician and associate professor of emergency medicine Jason Goldstick, who helps run the opioid dashboard, warned the data is incomplete, but the trend line is clear, especially for non-fatal overdoses.

Goldstick said many people have hypothesized a relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and more overdoses—factors that range from economic stress and social isolation to more people overdosing alone.

Goldstick noted it’s impossible to say for sure, because there are almost certainly multiple factors involved, but that “the overdose rates were higher this year than they were at the same time last year, for sure.”

Michigan is not alone is seeing an overdose surge. They’re up nationwide, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported recently that “provisional data suggests the pandemic accelerated overdose deaths.”

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