Minnesota reports increase in alcohol deaths

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Minnesota Department of Health

SAINT PAUL, Minn. (WKBT) — Preliminary data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health shows that deaths from alcohol use increased in 2020 to nearly 1,000 Minnesotans.

The preliminary data suggest that factors related to the pandemic may have boosted a decades-long trend of increasing numbers of alcohol-attributable deaths in Minnesota, according to the health department. The number of fully alcohol-attributable deaths increased by one-third between 2000 and 2010, and more than doubled between 2010 and 2020.

Fully alcohol-attributable deaths are defined as those that would not have happened if alcohol had not been consumed. This includes both chronic causes, such as alcohol-related liver disease, and acute causes, such as alcohol poisoning. In 2020, 992 Minnesotans died from fully alcohol-attributable causes.

“The deaths of so many Minnesotans from alcohol is tragic and preventable,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “Sadly, the pandemic has amplified some of the root causes of substance use and substance use disorders, such as social isolation, job loss and lack of access to treatment. In response, we need to strengthen overall opportunities in our communities for connectedness and financial security as well as specific evidence-based community strategies to reduce excessive alcohol use.”

The numbers mirrored previous year in 2020 until June, when the deaths began to accelerate. The Department of Health says it is thought to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2020, we saw that after May, alcohol-related deaths continued to stay elevated and 171 more Minnesotans died in 2020 compared to 2019, which is a larger jump than the trend prior to the pandemic,” said Kari Gloppen, MDH alcohol epidemiologist. Studies show that excessive drinking affects your brain, heart, liver, digestive system and even your immune system. Alcohol is also a carcinogen that has been linked to several types of cancer.”