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Drug-related deaths slightly down in 2022 across five mid-Michigan counties

bottle of pills on its side against an orange background

A report from Sparrow Health shows drug-related deaths remained steady in mid-Michigan, with a slight decrease in opioid-related deaths alongside increases in deaths involving stimulants.

The annual report from Sparrow’s Office of the Medical Examiner contains data on drug-related deaths in Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella and Shiawassee counties.

2022 saw 18 fewer drug-related deaths, a 9% decrease from the previous year. Incidents involving opioids—such as heroin and fentanyl—followed a similar trend with 13 fewer deaths and an 8% decrease.

Across the same time period, mid-Michigan saw 17 more deaths from stimulants, 17% higher than the previous year. That increase was sharpest in incidents involving cocaine, with 18 more deaths and a 35% increase compared to 2021.

Overall drug-related deaths remained the second-highest recorded by Sparrow in the six years the health system has tracked the incidents.

Michelle Fox, chief investigator for the office and supervisor for forensic pathology at Sparrow, said the data is influenced by what substances being produced and sold on the streets. She added her team shares its research with epidemiologists to understand the trends in drug-related deaths.

“We gather the data from our deceased. We put it together. We provide it to the community and the epidemiologists to start making those correlations,” Fox said.

About three-fourths of the drug-related deaths in the five counties involved two or more substances, according to the report. More than 80% involved at least one opioid.

Fox said her office will work with the counties to review the data and support community programs to prevent drug overdoses and deaths.

“There's a very big positive coming out of these reports, just from that, it's helping with the prevention," she said. "So, we hopefully start to see a huge decline in drug-related deaths."

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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