New Report Shows Minn. 'Rounding Bend' in Battle Against Heroin Abuse

April 09, 2016 07:43 AM

In the life or death battle against heroin, it appears Minnesota is making some progress. But too many are still falling victim to the vicious epidemic.

A report on drug abuse trends in the Twin Cities, released on Friday by Drug Abuse Dialogues, a company that delivers educational training on drug abuse, shows that last year, a family in Hennepin or Ramsey counties lost a loved one to heroin or another opiate every 2.5 days.

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But the report also shows the pain may at least be leveling off.

"I don't think that we've turned a corner, but at least we're rounding the bend," said Carol Falkowski, CEO of Drug Abuse Dialogues.

Falkowski has tracked drug abuse in the Twin Cities for three decades, having previously worked at Hazelden and the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

The new data shows opiate-related drug abuse deaths - which include heroin - remained flat in Hennepin and Ramsey counties last year, compared to 2014. For the first time ever, admissions to addiction treatment programs for heroin surpassed even those for marijuana, making up one in six of all admissions. And statewide seizures of heroin by drug task forces jumped 47 percent.

Falkowski said those are all reasons for optimism.

"When you have an outbreak such as opiates and heroin, it's great that people are getting the treatment they need. It's great that law enforcement is out there trying to curtail the supply, and it's encouraging that fewer people appear to be dying from it," Falkowski said.

Still, Falkowski insisted that Minnesota lawmakers must do more. She said other states have been more aggressive in combating heroin, and the writing of painkiller prescriptions, which often leads to heroin use.


Stephen Tellier

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