ST. PAUL (LEARFIELD) – Preliminary numbers from the Minnesota Health Department show a promising trend in drug overdose deaths statewide.

For the first time in a decade, MDH says the number of opioid overdose deaths decreased in 2018. Health officials say there were 331 opioid overdose deaths in 2018 compared to 422 in 2017.

“We know that deaths related to prescription opioids fell a full 32 percent from 195 prescription opioid-related deaths in 2017 to 134 in 2018,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcom.

Malcolm explains part of the decline is due to widespread distribution of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, but she says there is an overall trend showing a decrease in all drug overdose deaths.

“These early data show a decrease in overall drug overdose deaths in Minnesota dropping 17 percent from a total of 733 overall drug overdose deaths in 2017.”

Malcolm adds, however, one area of concern: for the first time ever, in 2018 synthetic opioids were linked to more overdose deaths than prescription painkillers.