Grand Rapids, West Michigan Experiences Increase in Prescription Painkiller, Heroin Deaths

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Grand Rapids, West Michigan Experiences Increase in Prescription Painkiller, Heroin Deaths

Like much of the country, Grand Rapids and the West Michigan area has experienced a dramatic uptick in drug overdose deaths in recent years.

Yesterday, a number of Kent County agencies met to learn the latest statistics, and to determine what’s currently being done to reduce the number of deaths, as well as the treat the opioid addicted.

The Grand Rapids Red Project is an organization that is striving toward that goal, and have been working with local law enforcement and training them how use overdose rescue kits. So far, three dozen lives have been saved when officers used kits in response to an overdose. The kit consists of naloxone (Narcan) which is an injection that effectively reverses the fatal effects of opioid poisoning.

Executive Director Steve Alsum:

“In the upcoming year we’re going to be trying to work more with the medical community to reach people who are at very high risk of prescription overdose because they have a prescription for opioids.”

“So, we’re going to be working closely with the medical community initiating co-prescription models where when people get prescriptions for opioids here in Kent County they also receive a rescue kit to take home with them.”

About The Epidemic

The opioid addiction problem in West Michigan is being felt nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, In 2014, there were more than 28,000 prescription painkiller and heroin deaths in the U.S..Since 1999, the number of drug overdoses in the nation have quadrupled.

The epidemic is largely blamed on pharmaceutical companies and the misleading, mass-marketing of opioid painkillers such as oxycodone. In 2012. 259 million prescriptions were written for these drugs enough to put one bottle of pills in the hands of every American.

Also, as many as 4 out of 5 new heroin users report first becoming addicted to prescription painkillers. When they can no longer obtain or afford their drug of choice, they may switch to street heroin which is cheaper and widely available.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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