Fatal drug overdoses decreased in 2023, CDC reports

FOX 2 (WJBK) - Farmington Hills Police Officer Kyle Witherspoon has responded to many drug overdose calls in just four years on the force.

"Obviously, there’s a lot of panic. Whoever called –family, friends– they’re panicked, so we need people to kind of calm them down a little bit," Witherspoon said.

But the mission always remains the same: save a life as quickly as possible with Narcan. And there’s nothing as scary as the first time doing it.

"Once your training kicks in, it's kind of second nature," Witherspoon said. "Obviously, our main goal is to save them and make sure that we can do everything that we can as police officers, until our fire department gets there. Because they have a lot more resources and IV's and just things that we cannot do."

Witherspoon and Farmington Hills officers Mark Mostek and Christa Towns all said they were glad to see a report from the CDC indicating a decline in the number of fatal overdoses last year, for the first time since 2018.

"Obviously, it’s an epidemic and people want to get help. So if they’re able to get those resources to where they’re able to save a friend, a loved one, a family member – it’s great," Witherspoon said.

"It doesn’t matter what kind of issues they have. I don’t care about their issues," Towns said. "My first thing is trying to save their life."

From about 111,000 deadly overdoses in 2022 to over 107,000 in 2023 – it's a drop of about 3%, according to the CDC.

Experts call it a small but encouraging number, but they're still trying to figure out the reason for that change.

"What I’m seeing in particular is that users are, now more than ever, buying these counterfeit pills in order to get high," said licensed psychologist and addiction counselor Mary DiPalo.

That's the new problem, according to DiPalo. Before, prescription painkillers used to lead the overdose epidemic.

"They want what they think is a legitimate pain medication or even with Adderall. And the fentanyl, and the methamphetamine is being put into these pills," she said.

Experts and narcotics enforcers say the synthetic drugs are being smuggled in by the Mexican cartels, with chemicals produced by Chinese drug lords.

But still, everyone from law enforcement to drug treatment specialists said the best answer is adding even more resources to the battle.

"It’s always nice to hear that numbers are going down, but it’s really a minimal amount," DiPalo said.