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New report finds increase in 2020 overdose deaths

Drug overdose deaths increased 31% during the first half of 2020 as compared to the first half of 2019, according to new statewide data released by the Minnesota Department of Health. The first half of 2019, January to June, showed 373 deaths while the first half of 2020 showed 490 deaths, according to a press release.

Overdose deaths in 2020 started to increase sharply in March, largely driven by an increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths. Approximately 80% of all opioid-involved deaths during this time involved synthetic opioids.

Both 2019 and 2020 also saw an increase in deaths from the first quarter of the year — January to March — to the second quarter of the year — April to June — but the 30% increase from the first to second quarter in 2020 was greater than the 13% increase seen in 2019.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said even during the COVID-19 pandemic there is support and help available to anyone suffering with addiction.

“Deaths due to overdoses are preventable even amid all the troubles we’ve had this year,” Malcolm said. “We need to work together to find ways to better support those suffering from substance use disorders, but it is important to know that there are resources available and those resources can still be accessed safely even with COVID-19 restrictions in place.”

Minnesotans needing help are encouraged to pick up the phone or connect using a video platform and reach out to their community, however that looks for them. A list of recovery supports and resources can be found at support for addiction recovery during COVID-19.

Looking at individual drug categories, deaths in all drug categories — all opioid-involved, synthetic opioids, commonly prescribed opioids, heroin, psychostimulants, benzodiazepines and cocaine — were higher in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019. When looking at the data by age group, Minnesotans between ages 25 to 34 experienced the largest increase in drug overdose deaths — from 81 in the first half of 2019 to 128 in the first half of 2020.

Drug overdose deaths increased in both the seven-county metropolitan area and Greater Minnesota from 2019 to 2020. In the Twin Cities area, drug overdose deaths increased 29% from January through June 2019 (248) compared to the same period in 2020 (319). Drug overdose deaths in Greater Minnesota increased 36% from January through June 2019 (124) compared to the same period in 2020 (169).

Data from July 2020 and later is not yet available so it is too early to know whether these trends have continued in the second half of 2020. A full report on 2020 data is anticipated next year.

Read the preliminary report on the MDH drug overdose dashboard. Visit the drug overdose dashboard to learn more about overdose data, opioid emergency response, lifesaving naloxone and preventing the demand for drugs.