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The Deadly Rise of the Opioid Epidemic

The Deadly Rise of the Opioid Epidemic

Opioid drug overdoses resulting in deaths have risen by 9.2 percent over the last year in Minnesota. In 2016, the state’s drug overdose death rate was six times higher than it was in 2000.

Minnesota Drug Deaths

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there were 637 deaths from opioid drug overdoses in Minnesota in 2016. That figure represents more than a nine percent increase in opioid-related overdoses since 2015 when there were 583 reported deaths. Recent statistics show that more Minnesota residents now die from drug overdoses than from traffic fatalities, which accounted for 392 deaths in 2016. Nearly 60 percent of fatal overdoses, or 376 deaths, involved opioid drugs including prescription painkillers, heroin, cocaine, and other synthetic opioid drugs.

Studies show that a rise in opioid prescriptions for chronic pain played a significant role in the rise of opioid addictions, overdoses, and deaths. However, Minnesota has a large number of drug problems among people who are living below the poverty line. According to the state health department, the opioid epidemic has had a major impact on Minnesota’s Native American and black communities where drug overdose deaths are nearly six times higher than in white communities. Recent data shows a rise in Twin City area deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, while rural Minnesota areas show a significant rise in deaths from methamphetamine.

Drug Overdose Survivors

Drug overdoses don’t always end in death. In 2016, there were approximately 2,100 non-fatal opioid overdoses treated in Minnesota hospitals. Many overdose victims recovered after being treated with naloxone, a powerful opioid antidote used by many hospital emergency departments and first responders.

Due to the rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths, hospitals, physicians, and medical examiners have been flooded with work overloads. Minnesota and other states across the country have reported a significant increase in investigations for opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Hennepin County’s chief medical examiner has reported heavy caseloads for opioid-related deaths, however, Hennepin County isn’t alone. In Anoka, Olmsted and Ramsey counties, medical examiners have seen a significant rise in drug overdose deaths. Under Minnesota law, medical examiners are required to perform a full autopsy in sudden or unexpected deaths, including deaths from drug overdose. The chief medical examiner of the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office states that drug overdose investigations cost more than many other types of deaths due to extensive, complex drug testing.

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