MDH reports dramatic increase in overdose deaths during pandemic

The Minnesota Department of Health is reporting a 27 percent increase in drug overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020.

The bulk of these were opioid-related, with 654 Minnesotans dying last year due to opioid overdoses, with 82 percent attributed to fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.

Deaths due to commonly prescribed opioid medications such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and methadone increased 53 percent last year, and heroin deaths increased 15 percent.

“Minnesota families are struggling, and the overdose deaths in 2020 are a terrible reminder that those struggles can result in preventable deaths,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm.

“The year has been unprecedented in so many ways, and the staggering number of drug overdose deaths shows the need to amplify our prevention efforts and strengthen the ability of communities to support people and connect them with services.”

Preliminary data also show a large increase in deaths involving non-opioids from 2019 to 2020. Psychostimulant-involved deaths, which includes methamphetamine, increased 44%, (229 to 329 deaths), deaths involving benzodiazepines increased 70% (83 to 141 deaths) and deaths involving cocaine increased 41% (58 to 82 deaths).

Support and resources are available. Pick up the phone or connect using a video platform and reach out to your community, however that looks for you. A list of recovery resources can be found at Support for Addiction Recovery during COVID-19.


Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers events and issues in north-central Minnesota, which include local government, crime, courts, education, environment, and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University and received her degree in 2018. Larissa, native to the great state of New York, grew up in Bemidji and enjoys spending her spare time with her son Logan, daughter Brigid, and pets Vincent and Piper. She also loves reading, Star Trek, and gardening... badly.


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