Fighting opioid abuse: Duluth police get special training and Narcan kits

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The Duluth Police Department is equipping officers to combat a recent uptick in opioid overdoses.

The department says it's received 100 Narcan kits – the drug used to reverse overdoses. And all of Duluth's officers have undergone special training on how to recognize opioid overdoses and treat people with the new kits.

The area has seen a "dramatic increase" in calls related to opioid overdoses in the last three years, and police say these kits have proven "very successful."

Earlier this week, the Minneapolis Fire Department announced it would start carrying the antidote as well, WCCO reports.

What are opioids?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says the drugs are typically used to relieve pain.

"They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion," the institute says.

Some different opioids include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), morphine and codeine.

Many of these drugs are commonly prescribed for short periods of times. The institute says those users rarely become addicted. However, people who use the drugs multiple times a day or for longer periods of time are at risk for dependence and addiction.

Heroin is an illegal opioid drug, and studies say people who abuse the prescription medications are more likely to inject or snort heroin.

Opioids in the U.S. and Minnesota

Opioid use is on the rise in Minnesota and throughout the U.S.

In March, the White House announced it'd take steps to address the "epidemic."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin use among people ages 18-25 has more than doubled in the past decade. And fatal overdoes have nearly quadrupled from 2002-2013.

Heroin has been a big problem in Minnesota as well.

In the Twin Cities, a report found that heroin and methamphetamine were the biggest problem drugs last year.

And across the state, officials seized 47 percent more heroin than they did the year before. You can read the full report here.

In March, a Fargo-Moorhead ambulance company told Valley News Live that they used the overdose antidote 10 times – the highest number ever.

Earlier this year, Duluth police reported a 24-hour-period where they responded to six opioid overdoses.

MPR reports that Anoka, Hennepin, Carlton, Cass, Mille Lacs and St. Louis counties experienced the most fatal overdoses between 1999 and 2014.

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