The number of Michigan patients who have been prescribed opioids to treat chronic pain has exceeded 1.2 million, the state’s chief medical officer has said.
That’s an increase of nearly 4,000 over the first nine months of 2017, said Dr. Mike Reiter, who is in charge of the Michigan Department of Health Services.
He said the spike was not caused by the state legalizing medical marijuana, which is expected to open this month.
The number of patients who were prescribed opioids rose by 6,000 in the first quarter from a year earlier, Reiter said.
And that’s still just under 1.6 million, he said.
Reiter said he expects that number to continue to rise, and it would be hard to believe that it would slow down.
But Reiter did not provide details about how the numbers would be determined.
He said that the number of opioid prescriptions has been trending downward, which he attributed to a combination of increased demand and a decrease in opioid-related deaths.
In 2017, opioid deaths rose by 22 percent compared to the previous year, according to the Michigan Health Care Foundation.
But opioid-induced overdose deaths have declined by more than a third since 2016.
Reisiter said there’s no way to predict how long the rise in opioid prescriptions will last, but that the state needs to be prepared for the surge in prescriptions and to have the resources to treat all of the additional patients that will come.