Combating Drug and Opioid Abuse with Michigan Pharmacists

September 21, 2016

By Ryan Burklow

Prescription drug and opioid abuse is on this rise in the U.S., and unfortunately Michigan has not been immune to this problem. Since 1999, Michigan drug overdoses have tripled, leaving the state ranked 18th in overdose related deaths.

In 2015, in an effort to combat this trend, Gov. Rick Snyder created the Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force. The task force was made up of top healthcare officials across the state. These officials — led by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley — worked to create a report detailing necessary steps to prevent prescription drug abuse.

The Michigan Pharmacy Association’s (MPA) annual Pharmacy Day at the Capitol was a chance for Snyder to speak to professionals on the front lines. He detailed the work being done because of the success of the task force.

The MPA showed a continued willingness to aid in the fight by hosting the seventh annual medication disposal event. Held in collaboration with Pharmacy Day, the event offered a chance for the general public to safely dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescription drugs.

Due to a key recommendation made by the task force, the availability of prescription drop off bins has also been increased statewide. Citizens are now able to dispose of prescription drugs in specialized red bins at any of the 29 Michigan State Police posts.

Realizing that a permanent committee was needed to resolve the problem, Snyder — at the recommendation of the task force — created the Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission. The commission is tasked with monitoring indicators of controlled substance abuse and diversion in the state.

The formation of the commission proved to come at a critical time in Michigan, as the state is facing a new health threat. On Sep. 19, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the likely circulation of the opioid Carfentanil.

Carfentanil is the most powerful opioid on the market, and is used to sedate elephants. The synthetic opioid is said to be 10 thousand time stronger than morphine. While the drug is new to Michigan, it has been an issue in other parts of the country. Since August, four states have reported that nearly 300 people have overdosed on Carfentanil laced heroin.

With the already growing problem combined with the new threat of Carfentanil, upcoming months will prove to be an important time in the fight against prescription drug and opioid abuse. The work being done by Snyder and the Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission will be vital in ensuring the health and safety of Michigan’s residents.