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Record amounts of drugs were seized in Minnesota last year

Included in the record haul was 488 pounds of meth.
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File this one under "unwanted records," because while Minnesota's law enforcement managed to get a huge amount of drugs off the streets last year, the haul highlights the scale of the drug problem in the state.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced that in 2016, its Violent Crime Enforcement Teams took a record amount of meth off the streets, while also noting huge increases in prescription pill and cocaine seizures.

In addition, state officials say drug overdose deaths are four times higher than they were at the turn of the century, and that more than half of the drug deaths seen in Minnesota (based on 2015 figures) were from prescription medication rather than illegal street drugs.

"The rate at which drugs are being seized around the state should concern every Minnesotan," said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman in a news release Monday morning, saying that education is the key to reducing drug use.

"Law enforcement can’t win this battle alone. We need parents, educators and the peers of those who take drugs to say enough is enough. Together we can save lives," she said.

Here's a look at how much was seized in 2016, including a record 488 pounds of meth – a 484 percent increase compared to 2009, when just 83 pounds were seized.

Where's it coming from?

The DPS says it has managed to reduce the number of meth labs in the state from 410 reported in 2003, to just 13 last year.

However, there continues to be a steady stream of the drug flowing into Minnesota, primarily from Mexico. The same goes for heroin, of which 10.9 pounds were seized last year (the lowest since 2012).

Also of concern is the rise of the opioid fentanyl, which is considered to be the more deadly cousin of heroin and can be fatal in doses of just 2 mg. A fentanyl overdose was ruled the cause of death of Prince last April.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has seen a rise in the amount of fentanyl cases over the past two years, with 76 cases of fentanyl submitted to its laboratory in 2016 compared to just 14 cases in each of 2014 and 2015.

The DPS says that fentanyl products tend to be entering the country from China.

Concern about the amount of opioid use saw the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office launch a drive called #NOverdose last month, which will see more collaboration between local organizations and education in the community after a 31 percent jump in opioid death in the county last year.

What's to be done about it?

Gov. Mark Dayton's office is offering several proposals to tackle Minnesota's drug problem, according to the DPS.

One of them would "streamline the process" for those with substance abuse problems trying to access treatment and care, after it found that although one in 10 Minnesotans have a substance abuse disorder, only 10 percent of those actually get treatment for it.

His office also wants to give the DPS an extra $1 million a year to expand funding for Violent Crime Enforcement Teams so they can operate in all Minnesota counties, not just the 70 they operate in currently.

He also wants to increase BCA funding to provide more narcotics special agents, a drug chemistry forensic scientist, and an intelligence analyst.

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