Twin Cities spike in Meth, Opiate, Prescription Drug abuse

March 12, 2014

It has always been difficult to pin down accurate figures on the toll that drug abuse and addiction takes on communities, so researchers often pull data from detox centers and law-enforcement agencies. While these numbers can never paint a truly complete picture of the hardships of those struggling with substance abuse problems and the people around them, the data can give an idea of how drug trends are sweeping across the nation.

The most recent study focuses on the St. Paul – Minneapolis area of Minnesota, where researcher Carol Falkowski of Drug Abuse Dialogues has combed through a year’s worth of data from the Twin Cities region. According to her findings, across the board drug use has increased throughout the metropolitan area.

Heroin and opiates

Perhaps some of the most concerning data came from the use of heroin and prescription pills containing a high level of opiates. Falkowski found that out of all admissions to Twin Cities area addiction treatment centers in 2013, 13.6 percent were due to heroin use or overdoses. This is an increase from the 2012 number of 12.9. Falkowski discovered a similar trend among prescription opiate users: while only 9 percent of admissions were due to prescription pill abuse in 2012, that mark jumped to 10.1 percent in 2013.

If the data from heroin and pill use is combined, the numbers tell a chilling story for drug use in Minnesota. Almost 24 percent of all treatment admissions in 2013 were due to opiate use. For proof of how quickly and pervasively drug abuse can sweep through a community, the 2006 mark of opiate addiction was only 9.6 percent.

Falkowski told the Minnesota Star Tribune that for non-habitual drug users, pills can sometimes function as a highly addictive introduction to the world of opiates. Once the prescription runs out, users may see heroin as their only alternative.

“Many people are introduced to opiate addiction through prescription pain medication,” she said. “And then they switch to heroin because it’s equally available and it’s more affordable.”

A meth comeback

Methamphetamine abuse was such a pervasive issues for Minnesota during the mid-2000s that it was one of the first states to restrict the sale in pharmacies of the drug’s precursor ingredients like psuedoephedrine. Falkowski’s research found that the popular drug may be making a troubling comeback in the North Star State.

Over 9 percent of all treatment admissions in the first half of 2013 were due to meth, which is a sharp increase from 7.4 percent in 2012. Smoking accounted for 65.3 percent of admissions and 28.6 percent of users were under the age of 26.

Law enforcement officers in Hennepin County, the county containing Minneapolis, indicated that 31.5 percent of all drug related busts included meth in the seizures. This, as well, is an increase from 22.6 percent in 2012.

Falkowski told the Minnesota Post that while tighter control of psuedoephedrine helped with the spread of meth in the past, manufacturers and distributors seem to have found their way around those roadblocks.

“With every drug, there are ebbs and flows,” Falkowski said. “At the core, however, is availability, and it seems that the availability of methamphetamines must be increasing.”

Time for action
The increase of these already dangerous numbers have prompted some Minnesota lawmakers to push for police officers to carry detox chemicals like naloxone or for changes in law to charge drug dealers with third degree murder, the Star Tribune reported. Regardless of the methods, it is clear that Minnesota authorities recognize the need to act.

“This is a trend unlike we’ve seen before,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek told the Star Tribune. “Every single one of these dang things is preventable. That’s what’s so tragic about it.”

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