Michigan drug overdose deaths fall for 1st time in 6 years

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FILE – This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of prescription oxycodone pills in New York. U.S. health officials are again warning doctors against abandoning chronic pain patients by abruptly stopping their opioid prescriptions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead urged doctors Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, to share such decisions with patients. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — State health officials say Michigan’s drug overdose deaths declined last year for the first time in several years.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Friday the state had 2,599 overdose deaths in 2018. That’s a 3.2% drop from 2017’s 2,686 overdose deaths and the first decline in six years.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun is the state agency’s chief medical executive. He calls the decline “a step in the right direction” but adds that much work remains to be done, including addressing disparities in access to drug treatment.

Michigan’s opioid-related overdose deaths fell by 0.8 percent from 2017’s tally to 2,036 such deaths last year.

That decline was largely driven by decreases in the number of deaths due to poisoning by heroin and commonly prescribed painkillers.

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