Heroin overdose deaths on the rise

Heroin deaths on the rise


ROCHESTER, Minn. — Minnesota’s most populated county is reporting a large increase in heroin use over the years.

Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis, says 2013 resulted in 54 heroin-related deaths. That is up from eight just three years earlier.

That problem has made its way into our area as well.

Sergeant Paul Wilson and those in the Narcotics Unit with the Rochester Police Department work every day to keep the city’s streets free of illegal drugs and one of their latest challenges is heroin.

“We’re seeing more of it on the street, we’re buying more of it on the street. The number of overdoses and overdoses that have resulted in death has definitely gone up for us,” Wilson said.

He said this was not the case four or five years ago, but now the highly addictive drug is readily available and cheap.

He said besides marijuana, methamphetamine is the most commonly used narcotic they see, but heroin is a close second.

“It gets difficult for us to weigh what is more important. Certainly we can be much busier with methamphetamine, but when we’re talking about people losing their lives to heroin overdoses, that becomes a priority as well,” Wilson said.

More users often leads addicts to rehabilitation facilities like the Fountain Centers.

“Once you have a tolerance, you have to continue using pretty much on a daily basis or else you will go through some pretty intense withdrawal,” said Beth Lawrence, Clinical Supervisor for the Rochester Fountain Centers location.

She said there are some signs to look for in a family member who may be using.

“Some of the first warning signs, definitely changes in behavior, wanting to isolate,” Lawrence said.

“It’s a growing trend, as with any drug, they rise and fall in popularity and trends,” Wilson said.

This is one trend they hope ends quickly.

Wilson said that it is hard for police to measure how many people are impacted by the drug. He said sometimes overdose patients may visit the hospital and police will not know about it.

Instead, he said they hear about it if they are called to a medical scene involving an overdose and even death.

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