The Potluck

Nonfatal drug overdoses up 18% in Minnesota, report says

By: - September 30, 2021 11:37 am

Emergency department entrance.

Nonfatal drug overdoses rose 18% during the 2020 pandemic year, from 6,196 emergency department visits in 2019 to 7,290 the following year, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Thursday.

People of color were disproportionately affected: Native Americans were nine times more likely to experience a nonfatal overdose than white Minnesotans, and Black Minnesotans were three times more likely. The numbers are in line with national trends showing a spike in overdose deaths, especially among people of color, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has changed school and in-person diversions that may help people in recovery, while adding financial and health-related stress, which can be triggers for people suffering from addiction. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest public health issue in the world for almost two years now, but the other pressing public health issues have not gone away,” said Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Department of Health commissioner, in a statement. “The opioid epidemic continues to be pervasive and requires continuing, comprehensive drug overdose prevention and response efforts.”

Most of the emergency department visits — about 57% — were linked to opioids and stimulants, according to MDH. 2020 was the first year nonfatal overdoses linked to opioids other than heroin — like oxycodone and codeine — surpassed those involving heroin.

The rate of nonfatal overdoses has increased more quickly in the Twin Cities metro area than in greater Minnesota, the report says.

Between 2019 and 2020, the nonfatal overdose rate increased more than 20% in the metro, from about 128 to 154 overdoses per 100,000 residents. In greater Minnesota, the rate increased about 10%, from 87.5 to 96 overdoses per 100,000 residents.

The medication naloxone can reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Information about naloxone and where to find it is available on MDH’s website.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.