As recently as twenty years ago, the county saw only a few heroin deaths a year—mostly older men who’d been longtime users. But then overuse of painkillers like Oxycontin created a new generation of opioid addicts. When legal supplies were cut back, many switched to black-market heroin—which increasingly is laced with fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller that’s far more deadly. By the mid-2010s, it was killing one person a week in Washtenaw County.
Deaths peaked in 2018 at eighty-one, then fell to sixty-one in the first year of the pandemic. But last year they rose again, to seventy-one. Since most of the victims were under forty, says Washtenaw County Health Department spokesperson Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, “it’s likely that those opiate deaths are a leading cause of death in our younger group.”
“It’s a little hard to separate whether that’s an ongoing trend versus pandemic-related,” she adds. Pre-Covid, “there was already a lot of evidence of declining mental health among youth.” That was “exacerbated by the pandemic”—and “mental health and addiction [are] very intertwined and always have been …
“The really troublesome thing is we’re seeing more contamination in the drug supply and even more powerful synthetics being mixed in.” They’ve seen a couple of “multiple overdose incidents, where more than one person overdosed in the same time and place—and even “some evidence of what looks like people unwittingly ingesting opioids.”
Thank you, James. As someone who has had loved one die from fentanyl I deeply appreciate the AA Observer’s coverage. The number of fentanyl and opioid related deaths is staggering, but doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.
My daughter died from a fentanyl overdose on April 24, 2022 at the University Hospital. On April 23, she was transported by EMS to the hospital, found unconscious with no pulse in cardiac arrest at the Extended Stay America hotel on Briarwood Circle in Ann Arbor. The hospital staff were able to regain a pulse but her organs were failing and her life could not be saved.
We’re trying to figure out who sold the dope that killed her. If anyone in the Ann Arbor area has lost a loved one to fentanyl and it happened around the same date or place, please contact me. Perhaps we can share info to help track down the person(s) responsible for these unexpected deaths.