Drug-Related Deaths Double In Southwest Michigan

Drug deaths are on the rise in Southwest Michigan. According to a preliminary report from the state Medical Examiner’s office, in Berrien County, drug-related deaths doubled from 2021’s totals. For 2022 and the first two months of 2023, drug-related deaths in Berrien County totaled at least 77. 

The leading substance contributing to the deaths is fentanyl. WSJM reported last June that opioid deaths were on track to break a record, and they did.

“We lose more people to fatal drug overdoses than we do to fatal traffic accidents and homicides combined, so that’s the problem we should be focused on,” said Richard Pazder, Section Commander for the Southwest Enforcement Team and Detective First Lieutenant for Michigan State Police. 

Pazder said they’re taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to drug trafficking and substance treatment. Now more people need to take a stand and if they see something — say something. 

“You report the drug trafficking you see going on and you do everything you can to work with law enforcement to take these people off the streets that are making profit off other people’s harm and misery,” said Pazder.

Pazder said in the case of opioid deaths, there is naloxone for overdose treatment, but for some of the chemicals now mixed with fentanyl, like xylazine, naloxone is ineffective.