To many, heroin overdoses and abuse stem from individuals looking to get high. What many do not consider is that these individuals actually suffer from a disease.
According to police, many heroin abusers first become addicted to painkillers before switching to more potent and dangerous opioids like heroin. The reason for the switch? Heroin is much cheaper to buy on the streets. As a result of this switch, there has been a large increase in the number of opioid related deaths. Between 1999 and 2014, opioid related deaths have quadrupled.
Although doctors are attributed with the cause of providing opioid abusers with their initial doses, these doctors cannot carry all the blame. The main reason for this is because doctors are being asked to "practice blind." This blind practice has led to an increase in prescriptions of about four million from the years 2007-2014. According to Republican State Rep. Anthony Forlini, prescription databases leave doctors with information that isn't updated in real time. This means that patients can essentially receive similar prescriptions from emergency rooms just next door, leading to abuse and addiction.
The small Upper Peninsula city of Escanaba is leading the way with local efforts regarding the increase in heroin addiction. Escanaba has instituted the ANGEL volunteer program, which helps addicts by allowing them to seek police help for their addiction without risk of legal punishment. They are then initiated into a long-term rehabilitation program that has a success rate of 87 percent.
The State of Michigan has attempted to follow up on the standard created by the City of Escanaba by expanding on the previous precedent established in a 2015 law allowing anyone to report an overdose without fear of legal consequences.
On top of that, $2.5 million has been provided for an overhaul of the State of Michigan's prescription tracking databases. With these multiple reforms, the state has made an effort not only to help addicts fight their addictions and recover before it is too late, but also to prevent more individuals from abusing painkillers in the first place.