Last Updated: 04/21/2023
Drug Overdose Death ReportingMDH’s Injury and Violence Prevention Section monitors all deaths and leading causes of hospitalizations and emergency department visits related to injuries. Beginning in 2011-2012, the growing numbers and rates of overdose deaths reached a level where it became necessary to monitor and report them separately from other types of injury and violence. Since then, MDH has reported this data annually.
OverviewOverdose deaths are preventable. Drug overdose death reporting is an important public health charge. On an individual level, it allows MDH and others to understand the circumstances that may have led to a person’s death. On a population level, it allows MDH, local public health agencies, treatment providers, and community stakeholders to better understand characteristics of drugs used and demographics of people who die from opioid overdoses to improve prevention efforts across the state. It provides the public with important information to keep them informed about what is happening in their state.
Causes and locations of overdose deathsOpioid overdose deaths are usually caused by prescription opioids that may or may not have been prescribed to a person, heroin, fentanyl, and/or other synthetic opioids. They can happen anywhere. Common settings where overdose deaths occur include private residences, hospitals, and in other public community settings. The manner of overdose deaths are most commonly found to be accidental/unintentional, suicide, or undetermined. An accidental death is one that was totally unforeseen and unexpected.
Overdose death investigationsDeaths suspected to be caused by drug overdose are usually investigated by a medical examiner or coroner. They determined the manner of death (accidental/unintentional, suicide, etc.) by investigating the circumstances around the death. Circumstances can include:
- Scene findings
- Autopsy results
- Toxicology results;
- Health history
Data sourcesMDH receives data on overdose deaths from:
- Death certificates of Minnesota residents
- Information and notes from death scene investigations
- Medical/EMS records
- Public health lab results
- scene findings
- autopsy results
- toxicology reports
- health history.
- frothy ‘foam cone’ from the mouth
- intact pills in the stomach
- needles present at the scene
- prescription history
- pill counts
- needle track marks
- prescription pills at the scene
- 50% reasonable probability for natural deaths
- 70% preponderance of evidence for accidental deaths
- 90% clear and convincing evidence for suicide deaths
- more than 90% beyond a reasonable doubt for homicide deaths
- 100% beyond a doubt for any cause of death