Opioid Overdose Prevention - Minnesota Department of Health

Drug Overdose Prevention

Drug overdose prevention work requires local organizations, healthcare systems, legislators, and public health professionals to work collaboratively and develop prevention programming that addresses social determinants of health. The Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) overdose prevention team focuses on providing the public with data to allow them to make data-driven prevention decisions that are best for their communities. The MDH overdose prevention team provides technical assistance to grantees, educational resources, and partners with stakeholders to build the capacity of prevention programs across the state.

Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorders are common and serious, but also preventable and treatable as many people recover. Substance use disorder occurs when use of alcohol and/or other drugs impacts a person’s physical health, mental health, and ability to complete tasks and responsibilities at work, school, or home.

Many people with substance use disorder are experiencing both substance misuse and substance dependence. When a person is misusing opioids, they could be diagnosed with opioid use disorder in addition to other substance use disorders. Many people are initially prescribed opioids for management of pain following a medical event, such as a surgery, or to treat chronic pain. A person’s Perception of Pain and the impact of pain on their quality of life can affect their decisions related to opioid use and misuse.  

There are many difference substance use screening tools that can be used by healthcare providers in the Identification of Substance Use Disorder (SUD). When discussing substance use disorders, the language that is used matters. Review the information on the Language of Substance Use Disorder page to learn more about how to talk about substance use in a positive, person-centered way to help reduce stigma.

The Drug Overdose Crisis

The number of Minnesotans that have experienced a nonfatal overdose or died from an opioid overdose has been increasing since 2000. Data on the drug overdose crisis in Minnesota is available from the Drug Overdose Dashboard and in reports provided on the Opioid Overdose Prevention Resources page. Information on the data sources that are used to monitor the drug overdose crisis in Minnesota is available on the Opioids Data page.

The drug overdose crisis does not discriminate and has impacted people of all ages, races, ethnicities, economic classes, and education levels in Minnesota and across the nation. Some of the root causes of the drug overdose crisis are the over-prescription of opiates, disparities in economic opportunity, and lack of treatment for mental illnesses and chronic pain.

Consequences of the drug overdose crisis include an increase in overdose deaths, especially among Indigenous and Black Minnesotans, and an increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

In Minnesota, Indigenous and Black people are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than White people. For more information on disparities in drug overdose deaths, please review the Differences in Rates of Drug Overdose Death by Race (PDF) report. Differences in opioid overdose deaths and non-fatal overdoses among people of different races are influenced by the Social Determinants of Substance Use.

Promising Overdose Prevention Practices

Prevention programming that focuses on the root causes, also called upstream actions, of health issues recognize that substance use disorder and overdose prevention is influenced by individuals, communities, and policies. Promising drug overdose prevention practices include a focus on both upstream actions and evidence-based practices to prevent substance use, misuse, and overdose. The Injury & Violence Prevention section has compiled a list of Promising Overdose Prevention Practices.

Harm Reduction

Harm Reduction is a recognized public health model that focuses on reducing the harms of active drug use, including reducing the spread of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV and preventing wounds from injection drug use, by recognizing that people use substances on a spectrum. The History of Harm Reduction in Minnesota provides information on some of the first harm reduction programs in the state and highlights the work of a current grantee, Harm Reduction Sisters. 


There are several different types of treatment for people who would like to reduce their use or stop using substances completely. Types of treatment include outpatient behavioral counseling, medically assisted therapy, withdrawal management, and inpatient residential services. 

A person can identify themselves that they would like to seek treatment or connection to treatment might be a component of Follow-up Care After Drug Overdose. A list of substance use disorder treatment locators is available on the Opioid Overdose Prevention Resources page. Find immediate openings for treatment and services on the Minnesota Fast Tracker website.

Updated Tuesday, 02-Aug-2022 15:34:50 CDT