Nonfatal drug overdoses rose during pandemic, Minnesotans of color disproportionately affected, MDH reports | KSTP.com

Nonfatal drug overdoses rose during pandemic, Minnesotans of color disproportionately affected, MDH reports

Nonfatal drug overdoses rose during pandemic, Minnesotans of color disproportionately affected, MDH reports Photo: KSTP/File.

Gracie Stockton
Updated: September 30, 2021 06:43 PM
Created: September 30, 2021 06:07 PM

For every one overdose death, there were 14 nonfatal overdoses in 2020, according to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Nonfatal overdoses increased 18% statewide during 2020 compared to 2019, and there was a "more pronounced" increase in the metro than Greater Minnesota. Opioid-related overdoses also spiked, the report states, and for the first time, nonfatal opioid overdoses surpassed heroin-related ones.

Overall in 2020, there were 14,475 nonfatal drug overdoses in the state treated in hospitals. People ages 15 to 34 made up the largest number of nonfatal overdoses; this age group was 55% of those treated in hospital, according to MDH.

African American Minnesotans were three times more likely and American Indian Minnesotans were nine times more likely than their white counterparts to experience an unintentional nonfatal overdose or one with an undetermined cause, the report states.

“As with fatal overdose data, we see populations most impacted by systemic racism are more often affected by substance use,” MDH Overdose Prevention Supervisor Dana Farley said. “Systemic racism and lack of access to recovery resources hinders recovery efforts for many Minnesotans."

Beginning in March 2020 — amid the beginning of COVID-19 shutdowns in the U.S. — there was a "substantial" decrease in emergency department visits statewide. However, nonfatal, opioid-related overdose visits surpassed 2019's numbers each month.

“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," MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement Thursday. "The opioid epidemic continues to be pervasive and requires continuing, comprehensive drug overdose prevention and response efforts.”

If you see someone you suspect is experiencing an opioid-related overdose, naloxone, or Narcan, can help. Anyone can carry the medication. More information on what naloxone is and where to find it is available here.

"As long as someone is alive, they can access treatment resources, making recovery possible,” MDH epidemiologist Shelbi Giesel said.

Resources from MDH on drug overdose prevention are available here.


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