Nonfatal overdoses increased in Minnesota during lockdown year

The majority of nonfatal overdoses involved younger Minnesotans, ages 15-34.

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The number of nonfatal drug overdoses in Minnesota increased in 2020, following the rising trend of fatal overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to new data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), opioids and stimulants accounted for 57% of the 7,290 nonfatal overdoses not categorized as self-harm. That’s up 18% from nonfatal overdoses treated in 2019, and 44% from 2016, when just over 5,000 nonfatal overdoses occurred.

There were nearly 14,500 nonfatal drug overdoses overall, across all intents, treated in hospitals last year.

“This means that, in 2020, for every one drug overdose death, there were 14 nonfatal overdoses treated in the hospital,” MDH said in its report.

Nonfatal overdoses increased faster in the Twin Cities area, with a per capita jump of 21% last year, compared with only a 10% increase in Greater Minnesota.

The increase comes as fatal overdoses across the Land of 10,000 Lakes topped records in 2020, with more than 1,000 deaths, an increase of 27% over the prior year.

MDH also noted the majority of nonfatal overdoses involved younger Minnesotans, ages 15-34.

“We know a lot of people are under a lot more stress than they were before, particularly young people,” child and adolescent psychiatry specialist Sarah Polley told the Star Tribune. “Now they’ve been attempting to get back into normal life. We’ve seen a lot of those kinds of young people coming into treatment.”

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm agreed, explaining in a press release that “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.”

Opioids and stimulants were involved in the majority of emergency room visits for nonfatal overdoses, with the bulk of the remainder coming via drugs like antipsychotics and antidepressants. Nonfatal overdoses from opioids in Minnesota are up a staggering 153% compared to 2016.

Starting when COVID began in March 2020, and lasting throughout the year, while emergency room visits were down overall, visits for nonfatal overdoses involving opioids remained higher in every month than in 2019.