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Health Check: leftover pain medication helping fuel opioid crisis


Findings released during the 13th annual West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast.

According to a health trend report from faculty researchers at Grand Valley State University, more women than men in Michigan were prescribed pain medication and tend to keep any leftover medications in their homes.

The findings were released Thursday during the 13th annual West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast, as officials from GVSU’s Seidman College of Business, detailed health behaviors, risks and trends for Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties.

Research revealed, that while a third of both women and men in West Michigan and Detroit reported using pain medication in 2019, 70 percent of those are keeping leftover opioids in the medical cabinet rather than disposing of them properly, while women are 10 percent more likely to keep excess pain pills lying around than their male counterparts. .

With the increasing trend in overdose deaths over the past several years, Dr. Erkmen Aslim said Thursday, leftover opioids may be playing a big part.

"If opioids and other pain medications are not disposed of properly, it could present a huge risk," Aslim said. "It could mean accidental poisoning or drug misuse. This also means it's important for organizations to promote more drug take-back events."

Other health risk factors that came out of Thursday’s annual health check:

Men in West Michigan have the highest percentage of heavy drinking (7.9 percent) and binge drinking (24.3 percent), compared to women.

Cigarette smoking is increasing in West Michigan among communities of color, as is E-Cigarettes or vaping, and 38 percent of the male population is overweight, compared to 29 percent of women.

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