Four people have been arrested following a spate of recent drug overdoses in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
At a news conference Sunday morning, investigators said three men and one woman were arrested at a Fargo motel around 6:30 a.m. Sunday on suspicion of illicit drug use and possession, WDAY says.
The suspects, at least two of whom have ties to the Twin Cities, are believed to be connected to a the death of a 37-year-old man who overdosed on Saturday, the Star Tribune says.
Officials believe heroin laced with something else could be to blame in the several overdoses reported this week, including two other fatalities, Inforum reports.
The heroin may be laced with fentanyl or another opiate, which can make the drug 30-40 times more deadly, WDAY says. And the laced drug can even be dangerous to touch, the Star Tribune says.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about these incidents or about opioid drugs in the community to contact police.
Opioid use a growing problem
Opioids – a class of drugs that include heroin, as well as prescription pain relievers like oxycodone and codeine – continue to be a problem in Minnesota and across the country.
It's gotten bad enough that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called it an "epidemic."
Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the country – there were 47,055 fatal overdoses in 2014, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine's 2016 fact sheet. Of those fatalities, 18,893 were related to prescription pain killers, while 10,574 were related to heroin.
The rate of heroin overdose deaths has nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013, the fact sheet says. Prescription painkillers (use of which has also increased in recent years) has been blamed for the increase in heroin use. Four out of five new heroin users had previously misused prescription painkillers, with many saying they turned to heroin because prescription opioids were "far more expensive and harder to obtain," according to a CDC report.
Just a few weeks ago, four people overdosed on heroin in Beltrami County, including one that proved to be fatal. It's among the many communities in the state that have seen a surge in heroin or opioid-related overdoses in recent years.
Recent incidents has police departments across Minnesota cracking down on heroin and prescription painkillers. In 2014, there were 19,203 drug abuse arrests in Minnesota, according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s most recent Uniform Crime Report.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced last week that a bipartisan bill she sponsored to help combat prescription drug abuse has passed the Senate.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recover Act would encourage states to pursue strategies to fight addiction, and also includes enhancing prescription rug monitoring programs to help combat drug abuse, the release says.