Tue, Aug 22, 2023 8:36 AM
By Scott McClallen, The Center Square
Minnesota has seen an increase in fatal drug overdoses of 327% over 11 years, state data says.
The number of recorded fatal overdoses statewide in 2010 numbered 229, but in 2021, jumped to 978.
Opioid-involved overdose deaths among Minnesotans increased by 43% from 2020 to 2021, and deaths have more than doubled since 2019. In 2021, Minneapolis represented 20% of statewide opioid deaths despite comprising just 8% of the state's population.
Jeffrey A. Singer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He founded Valley Surgical Clinics Ltd., the largest and oldest group private surgical practice in Arizona, and has been a general surgeon for more than 35 years.
Singer says the number of overdoses will likely continue to climb.
He cited a 2018 University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health analysis finding United State's drug overdose death rates have seen an “exponential growth curve” that began around 1979 before the 1990s surge in opioid prescribing.
The study found “overdose death rates may continue along this same historical growth trajectory for years to come.”
The study analyzed nearly 600,000 unintentional overdoses over 38 years and found differing drugs underlie the overdoses that kill 174 people daily.
For example, Singer explained heroin rose to popularity in the 1980s, followed by cocaine, Vicodin, oxycodone, and now heroin, fentanyl, xylazine and now nitazene – a synthetic opioid reportedly 20% stronger than fentanyl.
In 2022, The Drug Enforcement Agency said about 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized contained xylazine.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data in 2021 say U.S. drug overdose deaths hit their highest level on record – nearly 108,000 people. Of those death, over 75% involved a synthetic opioid.
To reduce overdose deaths, Singer advocated for legalizing all drugs, as well as enacting harm reduction through overdose prevention centers in which others are ready with Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug administered via injection or nasal spray.
“As long as we’re going to continue with the current drug war policy, [the number of overdose deaths] are going to go up year after year after year,” Singer said.
On May 19, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill legalizing all drug paraphernalia, including drug testing equipment.
Singer said there are 147 government-sanctioned overdose prevention centers in 16 countries at 91 locations. Switzerland has 14, Germany has 25, and Canada has 38, but the U.S. has few because federal law bans government-sanctioned overdose prevention centers.
“We are the outliers,” Singer said in a phone interview.
Last week, a privately-funded safe consumption site in New York called OnPointNYC reported reversing more than 1,000 overdoses in about a year.