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Challenges of fighting addiction

“Heroin is here, and we have never seen it like this before,” Carol Falkowski, drug abuse strategy officer for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said in a recent front-page Pioneer Press report. That’s not cause for panic, but it is cause for notice.

Before 2000, heroin was a “non-issue” in the state, she says. That’s changed over the last decade, spurred by a “perfect storm” that includes availability here of purer, cheaper heroin and the increased use of prescription painkillers.

We sat down with Falkowski recently to ask about what’s different now, what can make prescription painkiller abuse a “gateway” to heroin addiction and about strategies to deal with abuse and save lives. ...

A few years ago, methamphetamine addiction got major attention from law enforcement, legislators and the media. The threat was apparent. Billboards dramatically displayed the ravages of meth addition. We mobilized to make changes that included restricting the sale of the over-the-counter cold medicine pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in meth production.

This new chapter looks different, yet it could be closer-to-home.

With heroin, the addiction may not always be so apparent as it is with meth. Some heroin addicts can function well enough, even holding down jobs, Falkowski says. Further, she says, drugs have been “destigmatized” in our culture, and abuse of certain prescription drugs can be a “gateway” to heroin.

Behaviors are a factor. Eighty-five percent of the population takes a pill of some sort every day, Falkowski says. Some recovering heroin addicts say they found their way to the drug through prescription pain medication, Falkowski told the Pioneer Press’ Sarah Horner. ...

Strategies for dealing with prescription painkiller and heroin abuse, like other drug problems, often begin with education and awareness, including forums for law enforcement, health care workers, first responders and others.

— St. Paul Pioneer Press

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.