Report: Drug overdose deaths at a record high in Macomb County

A new report shows a staggering number of people are dying from drug overdoses, including more than one death per day in Macomb County alone last year. That's a record high.

"I've been in the field for 38 years and this is the worst drug problem we've ever had," said Randy O'Brien, Macomb County Office of Substance Abuse Director.

New 2017 statistics released this week from the Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office show 380 drug-related deaths in the county -- a 6.2 percent increase. 

"I've actually predicted that for the next five years we're going to see an increase in the death rate," said Linda Davis, district court judge and president of Families Against Narcotics.

The report shows 110 of the deaths reported were heroin-related. The total number of fentanyl-related deaths jumped 38 percent in just one year, from 144 in 2016 to 199 in 2017. Davis says this is likely due to recent prescription drug regulations.

"We're seeing the remains of people that were overprescribed that are now turning to illicit drugs because they can't get their prescriptions any longer," she said.

O'Brien says those illicit drugs are more often laced with fentanyl, which he says is 100 times stronger than prescription opioids.

"They've seen some deaths related to the use of marijuana -- which you never see, and then there's carfentanyl, which is 1,000 times more potent," he said.

Despite this seemingly never-ending battle against the opioid epidemic, Davis says programs like Families Against Narcotics and Hope Not Handcuffs appear to be working.

She says 71 police stations are now participating in the Hope Not Handcuffs program, which allows a person battling an addiction to go into police stations and ask for help without fear of being arrested. Roughly 1,600 have been helped so far. Also a big help is the use of Narcan to block the effects of opioids.

"It's totally safe. You could use it on a baby without repercussions," Davis said.

While Davis predicts a roughly 6-10 percent increase in deaths over the next five years, she says they're going to keep fighting and there's always hope for recovery.