Health Alert Network update cites dramatic increase in synthetic opioid overdose deaths since 2015

Posted at 12:33 PM, Jul 18, 2018
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a Health Alert Network (HAN) update announcing dramatic increases in the number of opioid overdoses related to illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids including fentanyl, carfentanil and others. This is the second update to the original health advisory, HAN 384, which was released in October 2015.
“The Health Action Network update should put everyone on notice that the opioid epidemic is real and getting worse every day,” said Rep. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe). “We must take action to prevent more Michiganders from getting addicted in the first place. Passing House Bill 5857, the Stemming Teen Opioid Pilfering- MI bill is a step in the right direction because it will reduce opioid pilfering, and protect teens from starting a cycle of abuse.”


The report noted that increased supply and access to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids has resulted in a rise in overdose deaths across the nation. It also updated information to protect law enforcement and medical professionals from fentanyl exposure. The report also offered the following recommendations:

  • Improve detection of fentanyl outbreaks to facilitate effective response 
  • Expand use of naloxone and opioid use disorder treatment
Given how rapidly this epidemic is evolving and growing in impact, finding a solution will require input from public health departments, medical examiners and coroners, law enforcement, laboratories, health care providers, harm reduction organizations and legislators.
In April, Rep. Bellino introduced HB 5857, which will require opioids and other highly addictive Schedule II drugs be dispensed in Locking Prescription Vials. Experts believe the measure will prevent 150,000 Michigan children and teens from starting a cycle of abuse over a 10-year-period.
Pilfering, which is sneaking a small number of pills hoping that it will go undetected, is the leading cause of youth opioid abuse. Each year 960,000 children, nationwide, between the ages of 12 and 17 initiate prescription drug abuse and many children start in middle school. Even worse, research shows that 80 percent of heroin addicts start out using prescription opioids.
The ineffective and outdated child-resistant vials currently being used have not been modified in nearly 50 years. When created in 1970, the goal was to prevent children age 5 and younger from accessing the family supply of aspirin. However, today’s universe of medications is stronger and more addictive and some have been found to be 80 times stronger than morphine.
Nationally recognized Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been calling for improved packaging of these highly addictive drugs for several years.
“HB 5857 will make pilfering tougher by requiring opioids be dispensed in inexpensive locking prescription vials that will ensure these addictive prescription drugs are accessible only by those who they are prescribed to,” said Bellino. “Opioid abuse has claimed the lives of far too many Michiganders and is showing no signs of slowing down. We must act now to stop this epidemic
from impacting more Michigan families.”  
HB 5857 has received support from Families Against Narcotics, a Michigan based nonprofit dedicated to educating communities about substance abuse, the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police and the Michigan Association for Local Public Health