Drug overdose death rate continues to soar in Alaska

Alaska’s drug overdose death rate rose by 15 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021 compared to 2020.

 

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The Alaska Health Analytics and Vital Records Section and the Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention released the 2021 Drug Overdose Mortality Update on July 25th. The report states that Alaska had 253 drug overdose deaths in 2021, compared to 146 in 2020. That represents an overdose death rate of 35.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, compared to an overdose death rate of 20.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020.

Alaskan men experienced a higher overdose death rate than women. In 2021, the overdose death rate for men was 42.9 deaths per 100,000 people, while the rate for women was 26.9. 

American Indian/Alaska Natives experienced higher overdose death rates than other races. That group had an overdose death rate of 77.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, compared to a rate of 40.1 in 2020. White people had an overdose death rate of 28.8 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to a rate of 15.6 in 2020. Asian, Black, and Hispanic people experienced fewer than 20 overdose deaths, which made the rate estimates statistically unreliable.

Anchorage had the state’s highest age-adjusted overdose death rate by region in 2021, at 49.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, which was an increase from 31.4 deaths per 100,000 people in the region in 2020. Gulf Coast had an overdose death rate of 40.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021.

Alaska had 196 opioid overdose deaths in 2021, which was an increase from 102 in 2020. That includes 145 deaths that involved fentanyl. Fentanyl was involved in 58 deaths in 2020. Methamphetamine was involved in 154 overdose deaths in 2021, up from 62 in 2020.

“In Alaska, the number of overdose deaths involving methamphetamines increased by 148% in 2021,” the report states. “The significant number of deaths involving psychostimulants warrants an increase in available and accessible stimulant use disorder treatment, and further analysis into risk and protective factors associated with stimulant misuse and addiction.”

Out of 778 drug overdose deaths between 2017 and 2021, 454 involved a combination of 2 or more types of narcotic, sedative, or psychotropic drugs.

Alaska’s drug overdose deaths have increased annually since 2018. The state had 1,382 drug overdose deaths between 2012 and 2021, which was an average of about 138 deaths per year. 

“In 2021, Alaska experienced the largest percent increase in overdose deaths of any state in the US,” the report states. “Between 2020 [and] 2021, drug overdose death rates increased for most drug categories examined in this report, resulting in a 74% increase in the overall drug overdose death rate.”