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GVSU researcher finds overdose deaths are up, even though prescriptions are down

The findings were detailed during the 11th annual Health Check report, which analyzes data and trends for Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties.
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Prescription bottle for Oxycodone pills on a glass table.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Researchers from Grand Valley State University have found that while the number of opioid prescriptions being written in the state has declined, the number of opioid overdose deaths have increased. 

The findings were detailed during the 11th annual Health Check report on Jan. 10. The report analyzes health data and trends for Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan (KOMA) counties, then compares the data to statewide and national figures. 

Sebastian Linde, assistant professor of economics for the Seidman College of Business, was the Health Check's lead author. Linde and other researchers studied the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed per 100 people in the Detroit and the regions in and around KOMA from 2006-2017. 

After a peak of more than 1 prescription per capita (per year) in Detroit in 2012, the region has seen a decline in the prescription rate to 0.76 per capita in 2017, he said. 

For the KOMA region, Linde said the prescription rate reached a high of 1.5 per capita (per year) in 2013, then declined to 0.64 prescriptions in 2017.

While opioid prescriptions have decreased, researchers found overdose death rates (from all drugs) increased to 34 per 100,000 people in Detroit in 2017, and remained steady at 18 deaths per 100,000 people in KOMA.

Linde said health consequences associated with drug use and overdose must remain a critical focus of intervention and future policy initiatives.

The entire report is available online gvsu.edu/vphealth. Data was provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network, and Priority Health.



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