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Although Michigan is often called the "Wolverine State," (for the many wild wolverines that once roamed there) it's more commonly known as "The Great Lakes State," because it's the only state in the US that borders four of the five Great Lakes. In fact, almost half of Michigan is made up of water and other than Alaska, it has more shoreline than any other state. According to the Michigan Historical Center, if you're standing in Michigan, you're never more than six miles from an inland lake or more than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes! But in addition to the state's abundance of beautiful water, Michigan (sadly) has an abundance of something else - drug and alcohol addiction.
Michigan boasts a relatively comfortable average annual income level of $75,352, and thus one might be tempted to think that it had been spared the wave of drug addiction affecting poorer states. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a recent survey, approximately 10.37% of Michigan residents reported past month use of illicit drugs, which is well above the national average of 8.82%. Despite being fairly well-off in terms of resources, Michigan drug and alcohol abuse is a major concern.
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics, we quickly realize that it's complicated. Drug and alcohol abuse affects the entire country, and no state in the US has been spared, including Michigan. In 2016 the United States had over 60,000 overdoses, (a rate of 175 people dying per day,) and when we look at the numbers, we see that overdoses kill more people annually than suicides, homicides, car accidents or guns. And, although poorer people are statistically more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, correlation is not causation. This doesn't necessarily mean that people that are more well-off economically are less likely to become addicted. In fact in some cases, wealthy people can be thrown into poverty as a direct result of addiction. Someone who is solidly middle class can fall into poverty if their addiction leads to poor work performance and job loss. And, if someone has been fired from an old job, it can become a great deal harder to get a new one. It's a vicious downward spiral.
Much like the rest of the United States, opioid addiction has blown across Michigan like a blizzard, wreaking havoc on communities and burying families. In Michigan, roughly 78% of drug overdose deaths involved at least one opioid in 2018 - a total of 2,011 deaths (and rate of 20.8!) Opioid addiction is particularly menacing because, due to the highly addictive nature of the drugs, it can sneak up on people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Just as in the rest of the country, the root of the opioid problem in Michigan stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive pills when, in many cases, lesser drugs like Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. Opioids may seem safe because a doctor prescribes them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a path to full-on dependency. In 2018, providers in Michigan wrote 62.7 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people! (This is far higher than the U.S. average prescribing rate of 51.4.)
Sadly many Michigan residents have discovered that abusing prescription painkillers can lead to using even more dangerous substances. Federal and state regulations now try to control and limit the prescribing of opioids, which has caused the use of street drugs like heroin (which gives a similar high and is even cheaper to obtain on the street) to grow. Among opioid-involved deaths in Michigan in 2018, 633 (a rate of 6.5) involved heroin. But the long spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug addicts often then turn to incredibly dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, (which is far stronger than heroin) and the result is usually a body bag. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
A recent study took a look at the substances most commonly abused by youth in Michigan, and the numbers are concerning:
41% of Michigan high school students report they've used marijuana (also called grass, pot, or weed) 1 or more times in their lifetime.
4% of Michigan youth (ages 12-17) report using pain relievers in a way not directed by a doctor in the past year. This is particularly concerning because we know how incredibly addictive these drugs are.
The good news for Michigan residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. Just like it's abundance of beautiful water, The Great Lakes State has an abundance of resources to fit every need, whether you just want counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or are seeking full-on detox services. The important part is acknowledging the forces holding you back so you can begin the journey towards breaking free of them.
Michigan State Facts
Michigan Population: 9,937,974
Law Enforcement Officers in Michigan: 23,228
Michigan Prison Population: 67,100
Michigan Probation Population: 170,967
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 14
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Michigan
Cocaine: 124.6 kgs.
Heroin: 9.7 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 1.5 kgs.
Marijuana: 6,535.0 kgs.
Ecstasy: 4,873 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 3 (DEA, state, and local)
Michigan Drug Situation: Cocaine, Heroin and Marijuana continue to be the primary drug threats in the state of Michigan. Narcotic traffickers of varying degrees are supplied with controlled substances from source cities and areas from around the country. In addition, traffickers of Russian, Israeli and Middle Eastern descent, as well as Vietnamese Criminal Syndicates are involved in the importation and distribution of MDMA, with the Metropolitan Detroit area serving as a transshipment point. Much of the MDMA is obtained through sources of supply based in Toronto, Ontario. Detroit-based Middle Eastern Trafficking groups distributing large quantities of pseudoephedrine prior to the successes of Operation Mountain Express III and Northern Star have now focused their efforts on the distribution of MDMA.
Cocaine in Michigan: Within Michigan, the primary emphasis continues to be placed on targeting major cocaine distribution and transportation organizations. The larger metropolitan areas of Michigan continue to experience high availability in cocaine trafficking and abuse. Wholesalers utilize the major cities as distribution centers for smaller cities. Wholesale distribution cells operating in these metropolitan areas are managed and directed by command and control cells operating along the Southwest Border, New York, Los Angeles and Miami.
The primary ethnic groups that dominate cocaine trafficking are large Mexican and Dominican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) with local distribution cells and links to Colombian cartels, and local African American distribution organizations that typically have Mexican sources of supply. A large majority of the cocaine transported to Michigan by these Mexican and African American organizations is transported in personal vehicles equipped with traps and/or concealed within the legitimate cargo on large semi tractor-trailers.
In purity levels between 60% and 90%, cocaine remains the primary drug threat in Michigan.
Heroin in Michigan: Heroin is widely available throughout the Detroit area and the more densely populated areas of Michigan. Heroin destined for the Michigan region continues to originate from different parts of the world. Large quantities of heroin are imported from South America, Mexico and Africa. Southeast and Southwest Asian heroin are prevalent in the metropolitan Detroit area. However, the DMP shows that South American heroin is the most abundant type of heroin in the Detroit area. Major heroin traffickers in Michigan are mainly Nigerian, African American and Hispanic. The City of Detroit continues to serve as both a point of consumption and a transshipment point to other communities in Michigan and Ohio.
Methamphetamine in Michigan: Methamphetamine continues to be available in the State of Michigan with the western and northern counties experiencing an increase in the amount of locally produced and Mexican methamphetamine. A recent seizure of ½ kilogram of methamphetamine in Detroit supports the assertion that methamphetamine is being transported from the western part of the state into the Metropolitan Detroit area increasing the availability of methamphetamine.
MDMA and Other Club Drugs in Michigan: The international border between the United States and Canada, particularly in the metropolitan Detroit area, serves as a conduit for the transshipment of predatory and club drugs like MDMA and GHB. Fueled by the vigorous trafficking of Russian, Israeli, Middle Eastern and Vietnamese criminal syndicates, large amounts of MDMA enter the U.S. distribution market through ports of entry covered by our Division’s AOR. While a large portion of the MDMA available in U.S. cities is clandestinely manufactured in Western Europe and the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg), an even greater proportion is trafficked through our international border with Canada. Much of this MDMA is obtained from sources of supply based in Toronto, Ontario. MDMA also enters the U.S. drug market from Western Europe via frequent non-stop flights into the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Recent intelligence indicates that Detroit-based Middle Eastern trafficking groups, distributing large quantities of pseudoephedrine prior to the successes of Operation Mountain Express III and Northern Star, have now focused their efforts on the distribution of MDMA. Chaldean (Iraqi Christians) criminal organizations operating in the metropolitan Detroit area frequently utilize couriers to smuggle multi-thousand quantity dosage units of MDMA in personal vehicles across the border into the United States. MDMA is then distributed at local rave parties and College and University campuses in Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. Our Division has experienced an increase in MDMA use and abuse due to the large volume of Colleges and Universities operating within our area of responsibility.
Current MDMA investigations in our Division reveal that multi-thousand dosage unit quantities of the drug are being transported into our Division from New York, NY. Russian criminal syndicates controlling and operating in the metropolitan New York area are supplying Russian distributors in our area of responsibility. These organizations are utilizing traditional concealment methods such as personal vehicles equipped with traps and couriers on aircraft, buses and Amtrak trains to transport the MDMA into our Division.
MDMA distribution cells, operating in the greater metropolitan Detroit area have direct ties to a large-scale MDMA manufacturing plant in the Netherlands. Intelligence indicates that the organization has ties to large-scale drug traffickers and criminal syndicates throughout the world. The organization has direct access to multi-millions of MDMA tablets being manufactured at the clandestine laboratory in the Netherlands.
Marijuana in Michigan: Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used and readily available illicit drug throughout the state of Michigan. Marijuana is popular among every racial and ethnic group in the region and is particularly popular among high school students. Canadian indoor grown marijuana smuggled to the Division is often known as British Columbia Bud (B.C. Bud). This particular type of marijuana has a much higher tetrahydrcannabinol (THC) content than domestic and Mexican produced marijuana and demand has grown significantly as a result. The increased demand has resulted in significant increases in marijuana seizures occurring at ports of entry within Michigan. Multi-hundred pound seizures of Canadian grown marijuana transported in tractor-trailers, trash haulers, automobiles and railroad cars have occurred with increasing and alarming frequency. Considering that the ambassador Bridge at the Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario port of Entry (POE) is the busiest commercial land border entry port in the world, it is no wonder that detecting marijuana commingled with legitimate goods such as earth worms, futon mattresses, metal lockers and trash, is a daunting task.
The smuggling of marijuana from Canada, via Michigan, into the United States via watercraft has been suspected without substantiation for many years and has resulted in a new method of concealment for marijuana traffickers. The ease of travel without detection across the narrow body of water that separates several areas of Ontario and Michigan cannot be overly expressed. The large number of pleasure watercraft registered in Michigan and the province of Ontario provide substantial opportunity for legitimate travel, recreation and also smuggling.
Although Canadian BC Bud is finding its way into mainstream drug markets in Michigan, Mexican and African American trafficking organizations, with Mexico-based sources of supply and ties to the Southwest Border, are responsible for the lion share of marijuana distributed in Michigan. These organizations continue to utilize traditional trafficking routes and concealment methods to transport marijuana into Michigan. Recent trafficking trends and seizures indicate that they are responsible for distributing multi-thousand pound quantities on a monthly basis.
African-American trafficking organizations transport marijuana into our Division from the Southwest Border utilizing personal vehicles, semi-trucks and tractor-trailers. Two recent multi-ton seizures revealed that the organization was commingling the marijuana with legitimate shipments of produce. This is a common trend utilized by Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating along the Southwest Border.
A recent 4.8 million-dollar seizure in Michigan supports the assertion that large, multi-ton shipments of marijuana are destined for Michigan from the Southwest Border on a monthly basis. In this instance, the money seized was from a large-scale Mexican trafficking group with direct links back to a major Mexican marijuana drug trafficking organization operating out or Mexico. The money seized has been linked to multiple, large multi-ton shipments of marijuana, which were transported to Michigan and other cities in the mid-west.
OxyContin in Michigan: OxyContin demand is increasing throughout the state. The Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) program indicates that the state’s OxyContin prescriptions have increased by 31%. Michigan is ranked 30th for it OxyContin comsumption per capita. Straits Area Narcotic Enforcement (SANE) Task Force, located in Cheboygan County, Michigan reported that 90% of the problems encountered is related to OxyContin. The number of charges for OxyContin abuse has increased. In 2002 there were 37 charges and in 2003 there were 60. OxyContin abusers are obtaining this drug through break-ins and robberies, doctor shopping, stealing from legitimate patients, selling parts of legitimate prescriptions, home break-ins and forged prescriptions.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been ten MET deployments in the State of Michigan since the inception of the program: Pontiac, Ypsilanti, Lincoln Park/Melvindale, Inkster, Muskegon, Benton Harbor, Mt. Clemens, Flint, Lansing, and Detroit.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Michigan.
Special Topics HIDTA: In 2002, based on drug trafficking trends, specifically the increased production of methamphetamine in the western portion of Michigan, additional funding was secured from ONDCP to expand HIDTA. This expansion was comprised of the addition of the five counties of Allegan, Genesee, Kalamazoo, Kent, and Van Buren. The HIDTA is now known as the Michigan HIDTA and its area of responsibility includes the cities of Grand Rapids, Flint, Kalamazoo, and Detroit accounting for approximately 60% of the population of Michigan.
The Michigan HIDTA is responsible for supplying funding and assistance to twenty-two initiatives, of which seventeen are federal, state and local drug task forces. These initiatives have been designed to address specific drug-related threats in their areas of responsibility. The Michigan HIDTA also funds an Intelligence Support and Deconfliction Center (ISDC) located in Detroit. The mission of the ISDC is to provide law enforcement agencies with timely deconfliction and intelligence support through the sharing of multi-agency information related to international and domestic narcotics trafficking, violent crimes, and terrorists activities.
Currently, the following agencies participate in the Michigan HIDTA: Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshall Service, Michigan State Police, Detroit Police Department, Grand Rapids PD, Kalamazoo PD, Flint PD, Sheriff’s Departments from the nine HIDTA counties, Michigan National Guard, Michigan Office of Drug Control Policy and many other local law enforcement agencies.