A region of northern Minnesota has been struck by an opioid epidemic that has claimed ten lives in the past six weeks.
Law enforcement agencies in Bemidji, Beltrami County, Red Lake Nation, White Earth Nation, and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe have issued a public appeal as it deals with a worsening overdose crisis.
Since the beginning of December, the five agencies have responded to 62 overdoses between them, of which ten have proved fatal.
Opioids are the main cause of these deaths and ODs, and despite the lifesaving medication Naloxone being used by responders to save some lives, it's not always enough.
That's because synthetic opioids like fentanyl are increasingly behind the overdoses, and to treat fentanyl ODs, you need larger amounts of Naloxone than you do for heroin overdoses.
The public appeal issued Friday reminds people that the drugs they're taking can be fatal upon the first use, and has called on people to direct those they know with opioid addictions to treatment available in the community.
"If you believe a family member may be abusing opioids, common symptoms of opioid abuse include: drowsiness, uncontrollable cravings, frequent flu-like symptoms, change in sleep habit and isolation," the agencies said.
"You may notice small folds of tin foil, small plastic baggies, randomprescribed pills or the disappearance of your own prescription medication. These observations should not be overlooked and you should seek help."
While the final figures for 2020 have not been determined, Minnesota experienced a 31% rise in drug overdose deaths in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019, with cases increasingly sharply with the onset of the COVID-19 shutdowns in March.
MDH deaths in all drug categories were higher in the first half of this year, but the increase came in large part due to an increase in synthetic opioid-related deaths with about 80% of all opioid-involved deaths during the period from January-June involving synthetic opioids.