Minnesota launches campaign to end prescription drug abuse

With overdoses on the rise, local officials are looking to curb the problem.
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Minnesota's attorney general is launching a campaign to help stop painkiller addiction.

The state's AG Lori Swanson teamed up with Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to bring the Dose of Reality – a public awareness campaign that aims to inform people how to safely use, store and dispose of opioid prescription painkillers – to Minnesota, a news release says.

The Dose of Reality website has interactive maps of drug-disposal locations where people can drop off unwanted medicine, and officials are also promoting a 30-second PSA (watch it here) to raise awareness about the website and painkiller abuse.

This is the latest campaign in Minnesota to raise awareness about opioid addiction. Earlier this month, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office introduced a #NOverdose effort, which is a yearlong drug prevention campaign. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek also visited the White House this month, where he emphasized the opioid problem in Minnesota.

Prescription opioids and heroin

Prescription opioids (like Vicodin, OxyContin, or Percocet) have been blamed for a rise in overdose deaths, because addicts will often switch to a street opioid – heroin.

The CDC says more than 45 percent of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription painkillers. The agency issued new recommendations for doctors that consider prescribing opioids to patients with chronic pain. It includes only prescribing the smallest effective dose, and closely monitoring patients who use them.

Drug use in Minnesota in 2015

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows there were 572 drug overdose deaths in Minnesota in 2015 – that was up 11 percent from 2014, when there were 516. (The department hasn’t released the full 2016 numbers yet, so these are the most recent annual figures available.)

More than half of the deaths were due to prescription medications rather than street drugs.

Opioid pain relievers were the leading drug associated with death in Minnesota at 216, followed by heroin at 114. Meanwhile 78 were due to stimulants such as methamphetamines.

In the Twin Cities specifically, this report found that heroin and methamphetamine were the biggest problem drugs in 2015.

Getting help

There are resources within Minnesota and the U.S. to get help if you’re struggling with addiction.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a website that shows residential, outpatient and hospital inpatient treatment program locations.

And the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) also offers help, and can connect people with resources nearby.

The National Institute of Health has more options here, as well as a guide of what to do if a friend or loved one has a substance abuse problem.

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