Minnesota Opiate Use on the Rise

An investigation by the Pioneer Press and the Duluth News Tribune revealed that more opioid painkillers are being legally distributed than ever before in the state of Minnesota, which makes it easier for people to illegally obtain the pills.

The amount of painkillers being distributed is astounding.  The investigation revealed that enough oxycodone and hydrocodone was distributed throughout the state to provide 18 pills per person.  Considering the number is up from two pills per person in 1997, we see an 800 percent increase over the last 15 years.

As prescription drugs rates continue to rise, so do drug-related crimes, arrests and deaths.

Officials also warned that pill addicts have begun to switch to harder drugs like heroin, which has become more readily available in the Twin Cities over the last few years.

“Clearly we have all the ingredients of a prescription opiate and heroin epidemic in the state of Minnesota,” said Carol Falkowski, a former drug-abuse strategist for the state of Minnesota.

Falkowski said the “epidemic” stems from an increase in the number of opioid prescriptions.  Painkillers that were once used to ease discomfort for patients with chronic pain are now being prescribed for other conditions, and leftover pills can be easy targets for teens and young adults looking for a quick high.

The study also found that in 2012, 24 out of every 10,000 Minnesotans between the ages of 18 and 24 received treatment for opiate addiction, which represented a 179 percent increase since 2008.

Over Prescribing?

Opioids are tightly controlled by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, and are often prescribed to treat cases of ADD and ADHD.  Oftentimes teens that have trouble focusing in school are prescribed some form of opiate, which can make it easier for the drug to enter into the school system and be distributed among social groups.

As more children are diagnosed with ADHD, an increased amount of opioids are legally distributed from doctors.  Minnesota saw a 72 percent increase in the legal distribution of opioids from 2005 to 2011.

In 2011, Duluth had the highest rate of opiate painkiller distribution in the state. This year, the largest increases were seen in Ramsey County and the northwest corner of the state.  The increased supply of opioids has led to more people sampling the drug.

“Supply is a key ingredient in any drug epidemic,” Falkowski said. “You have to have an adequate supply in order to propel it into epidemic proportions.”

Dr. David Schultz, who runs the MAPS Medical Pain Center in Minneapolis, said the current prescription system is partially at fault.

“Patients are happy when they get a prescription, and doctors’ satisfaction ratings go up.  If they say no to a patient, then they’ll give them a bad rating,” Schultz said. “There are a lot of perverse incentives to write a prescription, and that’s an unfortunate situation.”

More Prescription Drug Findings

The findings by the Pioneer Press and the Duluth News Tribune highlight some dangerous trends.  More findings from the investigation can be seen below.

  • A fourfold increase in Minnesotans who died from prescription opiate use between 1999 and 2010.  The Centers for Disease Control reported that 192 people died from prescription opiate use in 2010 compared to only 42 a decade earlier.
  • The Department of Human Services reported that the number of Minnesotans who sought treatment for opiate abdication has more than doubled since 2007.
  • Over a 10 year period there has been a 13 percent increase in instances where prescription opiates and heroin were listed as reasons for entering a treatment facility.
  • Crimes to get drugs or to get money to pay for drugs have been more prevalent, according to police.  In 2012, there were been 10 armed robberies of pharmacies, compared to seven in 2011.

Related Source: TwinCities.com

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Avery Appelman is a criminal defense lawyer and the founder of Appelman Law Firm. While his practice is primarily recognized for its work with DWI and related offenses, he has 16 years of experience working with clients on drug, assault, theft, traffic, criminal sexual conduct, and prostitution charges.

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