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North Dakota reports jump in drug overdose deaths

August 16, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota recorded the most deaths from drug use in a decade last year as the pandemic caused isolation and fentanyl became widely available.

The Bismark Tribune reported that the state recorded 118 drug-related deaths in 2020 — a 49% jump from the previous year, according to the Division of Vital Records. Police and drug treatment counselors say social isolation due to the pandemic increased substance abuse problems, while fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, has made overdoses more common.

State lawmakers have attempted to address overdose deaths in recent years by increasing access to Narcan, a medicine that can treat drug overdoses, as well as boosting public awareness of addiction treatments. But drug treatment counselors said they saw a setback last year as the pandemic upended life.

“There just wasn’t the access for family members and friends to potentially save a life administering Narcan when they did have an overdose,” said Pamela Sagness, the head of the Behavioral Health Division at the Department of Human Services