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Drug overdose deaths up 31% in the first half of 2020

Overdose deaths started to increase sharply in March, which coincides with the state-ordered lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drug overdose deaths increased in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period a year prior, with a sharp increase starting in March. 

That's according to a new report by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), which found drug overdose deaths were up 31% during the first half of 2020 as compared to the first half of 2019 (490 overdose deaths from January-June of this year compared to 373 during the same period in 2019).

MDH noted that overdose deaths this year started to "increase sharply" in March, the same time as the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota.

“Deaths due to overdoses are preventable even amid all the troubles we’ve had this year,” MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. “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.”

Resources for those suffering from addiction can be found here

The increase in drug overdose deaths was seen statewide, with MDH reporting there were increases in both the seven-county metro area and greater Minnesota from 2019 to 2020. In the Twin Cities metro, overdose deaths went up 29% while overdose deaths in greater Minnesota went up 36%. 

Meanwhile, Minnesotans between the ages of 25-34 experienced the largest increase in drug overdose deaths (81 in the first half of 2019 to 128 in the first half of 2020).

MDH deaths in all drug categories were higher in the first half of this year, but the increase came in large part due to an increase in synthetic opioid-related deaths with about 80% of all opioid-involved deaths during the period from January-June involving synthetic opioids.

Information on drug overdoses from July to now is not yet available, with MDH noting it's too early to tell if the increase in overdose deaths has continued. 

A full report on overdose deaths for 2020 will be released next year. 

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