Gov. Rick Snyder: It’s time to address Michigan’s pain pill problem

October 26, 2015:

DETROIT, MI — Michigan has a pill problem, says Gov. Rick Snyder.

The number of prescribed Schedule II pills quadrupled from 180 million to 745 million in eight years, he said.

“It’s a tragic topic,” said Snyder. “This has truly become a national crisis, and it’s not just Michigan. Every corner of our country has seen a huge upsurge … ”

Gov. Rick Snyder, along with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon revealed several startling statistics during the presentation of a new report from the 21-member Prescription Drug and Opioid Task Force at Detroit Medical Center Monday.

Calley says the proliferation of doctor-prescribed medication is a direct contributor to the recent upsurge in heroin use, which has led to an 11-fold increase in overdoses between 2000 and 2013.

Calley said of heroin addicts who started using since 2000, 75 percent began with doctor-prescribed drugs.

In many cases, users begin with opioid pain pills, like OxyContin or Vicodin, but their tolerance and abuse increases until they can no longer obtain or afford the pills.

Their bodies are addicted. Without opiates, they experience physical withdraw, becoming severely uncomfortable and ill.

That’s when addicts are more apt to turn to street drugs, like heroin, that give addicts their fix, often more cheaply.

The state task force is making a number of recommendations to address the problem with opiates and opioid pain pills.

They suggest updating the antiquated Michigan Prescription Drug System, which theoretically tracks any drugs prescribed to a patient and allows any doctor to access the information. Doctors who check the system should be able to tell who is abusing medication.

Schuette spoke about increasing the number of prescription pill drop-off sites, which allow residents to safely dispose of unwanted or expired pills. He also wants to increase access to naxalone, which is an antidote that almost immediately reverses an opiate overdose and has been used successfully to save lives in numerous communities, including Oakland County.

Calley said its a health problem as well as a law enforcement problem.

“This is a biology issue and not a will power issue,” he says.

Calley would like to see increased treatment options for addicts, including access to drugs like suboxone, which is used for opiate treatment. He proposed elimination of laws that discourage low-level users from calling emergency officials for help in overdose situations because they fear arrest.

DMC’s Chief Administration Officer Conrad L. Mallett, Jr., who was also appointed to the Detroit Police Commission by Mayor Mike Duggan, brought up medical marijuana, which many believe is a safer alternative for pain than prescription medications.

Mallett takes the opposite point of view.

There are over 130 medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in the city of Detroit, he said, “and frankly, I’m sure (the impact) is not going to be positive related to what we are discussing today.”

Calley says doctors have to respect the power of the medications they are giving to patients, and appreciate the impact should addiction occur.

“They need to recognize that in some cases, even when you user the medication exactly as prescribed, they can still result in addiction,” he said. “That is a reality that our system need to be better prepared to deal with and manage.”

By Gus Burns |
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on October 26, 2015 at 12:15 PM, updated October 26, 2015 at 12:50 PM

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