Beyond Overdose: Surveillance of Recreational Drug Use and Corresponding Toxicology Testing


Drug overdose deaths are increasing nationally and in Minnesota (MN). This is only a fraction of the overall burden that recreational drug use exacts on emergency departments (ED) and hospitals. In addition to opioids and other drugs, three outbreaks of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones have occurred in MN recently. ICD codes do not adequately identify patients treated for drug use. Also, toxicology data for these patients are limited: routine toxicology testing is not performed at hospitals as results are not timely enough to be useful for clinical care. Even when such testing is performed, hospital laboratories are unable to detect newer synthetic drugs. In order to more quickly respond to clusters of substance use, identify substances causing atypical symptoms or severe illness, and understand the burden of overdoses and substance use in MN, the MN Department of Health (MDH) developed the MN Drug Overdose and Substance Abuse Pilot Surveillance System (MNDOSA). MNDOSA data collection began in November 2017 and includes two pilot sites in Northeastern MN, and one in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.

Objective: Implement a novel surveillance system for recreational substance use, including toxicology testing, to enable situational awareness and more accurately assess the health care burden related to recreational substance use.

Primary Topic Areas: 
Original Publication Year: 
Event/Publication Date: 
January, 2019

June 18, 2019

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National Syndromic
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The National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) is a collaboration among states and public health jurisdictions that contribute data to the BioSense Platform, public health practitioners who use local syndromic surveillance systems, Center for Disease Control and Prevention programs, other federal agencies, partner organizations, hospitals, healthcare professionals, and academic institutions.

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