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MONROE, Mich. – A recent report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in 2017 drug overdoses were responsible for the deaths of 2,662 Michiganders, more than the number of traffic and firearm deaths combined. The overdose deaths represent an 82 percent increase over five years and an eight percent jump from 2016.

“The CDC’s findings are staggering and I am reminded of how crucial it is for us to take action to protect more Michiganders from opioid addiction,” said State Rep. Joe Bellino.  “House Bill 5857 is a step in the right direction because it will save lives and protect Michigan youth from starting the cycle of abuse.”

The CDC estimates the report actually underreports the total number of drug overdose related deaths by about eight percent, because their numbers track cause of death from death certificates and “pending investigation” was listed on several certificates.

The report also noted that experts attribute the drastic increase in prescription drug deaths to the increased potency of pain medications and more Michiganders having opioid/ Schedule II prescriptions.

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The ineffective and outdated child-resistant vials currently being used have not been modified in nearly 50 years.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.

“By requiring opioids and other highly addictive Schedule II drugs to be dispensed in locking prescription vials, HB 58587 will reduce pilfering and make it tougher for children and teens to access these addictive drugs,” 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 the Michigan Association for Local Public Health and the Eaton County Board of Commissioners recently passed a resolution in support of the bill.