PIERRE — Overdose deaths in South Dakota jumped by more than 20 percent in 2021, according to state records and an insurance study. Opioids were the leading cause of the fatalities, both reported.
The South Dakota Department of Health and the Department of Social Services provided data to support a report from QuoteWizard, a Seattle-based independent online insurance comparison platform
“In 2021, there were 104 overdose deaths in South Dakota,” according to the state agencies. “Forty-three out of the 104 overdose deaths were opioid-related. In South Dakota, 41% of drug overdoses in 2021 were attributable to opioids.”
“While we don’t know for certain that overdose death increases are attributed directly to the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that there was a 24% increase in overdose deaths from 2020-2021 in South Dakota,” according to a response from the state agencies.
South Dakota’s spike in overdose deaths was much higher than national figures, which saw a 4 percent increase in overdose deaths.
Nationwide, 103,664 people died of an overdose in 2021, compared to 99,973 in 2020 and 68,757 in 2019, according to QuoteWizard.
Alaska, with a startling 44 percent increase, New Hampshire, 26 percent higher, and Idaho, at 24 percent had the highest increases in overdose-related deaths since 2020, with South Dakota ranking fourth at 22 percent, according to the insurance study. West Virginia, Louisiana and Tennessee have the highest rates of overdose deaths.
The leading cause of overdose deaths was opioids, which account for nearly 70 percent of deaths, according to QuoteWizard.
October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, and to help bring awareness and shed light on a growing health crisis that killed over 100,000 Americans in 2021, QuoteWizard compiled data from across the nation.
Nick VinZant, a senior research analyst and insurance expert for QuoteWizard, is a former investigative reporter and data analyst. VinZant said the organization chose to look at overdose deaths from April 2020-March 2021, using the month when the pandemic took firm hold, and compared that to overdose deaths from April 2021-March 2022.
South Dakota had 78 overdose deaths from April 2020 to April 2021, he said, and that jumped to 95 in the following 12 months. VanZint said the statewide numbers cover the calendar year, while the insurance study is from April to April.
He said the QuoteWizard death reports come from the Centers
“We looked at basically overdose-related deaths going back to 2015,” VinZant said. “They really started to increase right around the start of the pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has dominated health headlines but there is a second health crisis happening. Our team of analysts found that there has been a 24 percent increase in drug-related overdose deaths in South Dakota over the last year — that’s the fourth-highest increase nationwide.”
Opioids, including synthetic opioids like fentanyl, caused 71 percent of the overdose deaths, he said. Psycho stimulants with blamed for 14 percent of the deaths, while cocaine was responsible for 11 percent, natural and semi-synthetic drugs caused 5 percent of the deaths, heroin was linked to 3 percent of deaths and methadone was blamed for 1 percent of the fatalities.
The states with the highest increase in overdose deaths were Idaho, New Hampshire, Alaska, South Dakota, Vermont, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. That’s noteworthy in itself, VanZint said.
“There seems to be, when you look at the states, there’s definitely a rural pattern to it,” he said.
This crisis exists and is growing worse. It’s a second major health crisis in America, and one that needs attention, VanZint told The Pioneer.
“If people are struggling, you are certainly not alone,” he said.
A complete breakdown of overdose deaths by state and drug category is available at https://quotewizard.com/news/drug-overdose-deaths-in-america.
VanZint said this report was a parallel to one QuoteWizard did on fatal car crashes in the same time frame
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there was this overall pattern of younger drivers driving too fast on less-congested roadways,” he said. “And people never really changed that behavior. They kept the bad driving habits they picked up at the height of the pandemic when nobody was on the road and continued that when people got back on the road. It’s a pretty big problem.”
The state agencies said they are trying to reduce the toll from drug abuse.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) has programs to help individuals obtain naloxone, safely store medication, and safely dispose of unused medications.
Naloxone is a medication used to reverse an opioid overdose and is offered free of charge through participating South Dakota Pharmacies. You can find a participating pharmacy at https://www.avoidopioidsd.com/take-action/reverse-overdose/find-a-naloxone-pharmacy/.
DSS partners with The Helpline Center to provide free medication lock boxes to help reduce accidental overdose or misuse of medication in households across the state. You can order a free lockbox at https://www.avoidopioidsd.com/take-action/medication-lock-boxes/.
South Dakota offers take-back locations like pharmacies and police stations to accept unused or expired medications year-round. To find a participating location near you, go to https://www.avoidopioidsd.com/take-action/safe-medication-disposal/.
DSS partners with The Helpline Center to provide free DisposeRx packets to households across the state to safely dispose of unused or expired medications. DisposeRx packets contain an FDA-approved ingredient that chemically and physically neutralizes the drugs when mixed with water.
You can order a free DisposeRx packet at https://www.avoidopioidsd.com/take-action/safe-medication-disposal/.
More data and information is available at AvoidOpioidSD.com.
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