Is opioid abuse down in Minnesota, or just getting harder to track?

This month, the Minnesota Department of Health announced the number of deaths caused by opioids went down instead of up. That’s kind of a big deal, since opioid deaths have climbed up and up, almost without exception, for the last two decades.

Data from the Department of Health show 331 opioid-related deaths in 2018, down from 422 in 2017.

Public health officials are treating the good news with caution. While the number of people dying from opioid use has gone down, death rates are still high — and it’s unclear whether the number of people abusing the drugs has substantially declined.

Is opioid abuse down in Minnesota, or just getting harder to track?