Fighting heroin use


ROCHESTER, Minn. – Heroin use is a growing problem in our area. In Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis, heroin-related deaths went up nearly 80 percent between 2011 and 2012. In 2013, they dealt with another 50 plus deaths and that problem is in our area too.

There are many different kinds of drugs that Rochester police bring through their doors every day, but lately heroin is becoming more prominent.

It is not just Rochester seeing the trends. Heroin use is growing in the Midwest, and the purity of the opiate drug is stronger than what you would find in other parts of the country.

“What it’s leading to is people being hooked, it’s leading to a number of overdoses both locally and throughout the region. Our officers are encountering overdoses several times a week at times,” said Captain John Sherwin of the Rochester Police Department.

Law enforcement and area doctors say there is no good way to tell how this all started.

Opiate prescriptions are also on the rise and many believe that is no coincidence. Four times as many prescriptions are being given out compared to 20 years ago.

“It’s true that we were probably under treating pain way back when, but now the pendulum has swung to the opposite direction and what we are beginning to understand is that chronic pain does not respond well to opiates,” said Dr. Daniel Hall-Flavin with Mayo Clinic Consult Psychiatry.

Hall-Flavin said that a change in the way some prescriptions are given out would be a good start.

“It takes physicians who are willing to take a look at their practices and prescribe opiates in a different way when needed,” Hall-Flavin said.

He said the most important change needs to come with the stigma surrounding those who need help for addiction.

“It’s hard for people to understand or to know sometimes because of the shame and the guilt and the vulnerability and that’s what we see when people come to us for help, but the tragedy is that oftentimes people don’t come for help,” Hall-Flavin said.

On April 3, the Food and Drug Administration approved an overdose antidote that doctors can prescribe for family members or caregivers to have on hand in case of an opiate overdose.

Hall-Flavin said that is a key step in preventing unnecessary deaths due to overdoses.

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