Older people turning to heroin after prescription opioids run out

Michigan's opioid problem isn't just killing people in their teens, 20s, or 30s - it's also taking the lives of people in the 50s and 60s for a surprising reason.

Numerous stats show deaths from opioid abuse are on the rise, but Royal Oak EMS Captain Dan Phillips is trying to set the record straight about who the drugs are killing. 

"Everyone seems to think, heroin overdose, it's got to be some person living on the street that's addicted to heroin, that it's the drudge of society. No," Phillips said.

According to recent statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest overdose death rate increase was in the age group between 55 to 64.

"It's not teenagers - we get very few teenagers. It's not a high school problem; it's a society problem," Phillips said.

In 2017, Royal Oak saw more deaths in that year (10) than in the previous five years combined. None of them were teenagers. Some of the victims were a 41-year-old, a 56-year-old and a 62-year-old. 

"A lot of older people start with a real injury: broken hip, a shoulder injury; they get a real drug for a real reason. When that drug goes away because that injury is over, they don't get the help to not being on that drug, and that's where we see our problems." 

It's difficult to treat an older person addicted to opioids, as clinical psychologist Dr. Carol Van Dyke says. Getting help early is the key.

"A lot times they don't understand themselves, they don't understand what's going on with the changes they are experiencing," she said. "They need some psychotherapy. They can definitely get some council. Meditation is good, yoga is good. They can also get a massage, and physical therapy."

If you do need help, you can always go to the Royal Oak Fire Department.

"Even if it's heroin, you have to get some help but you can't do it alone," Phillips said.