Guest Opinion: Combating the opioid crisis at many levels

Rep. John Poston
State Rep. John Poston

Here in Minnesota, we have taken appropriate steps to make sure that prescription drug manufacturers are held accountable for the role they played in the opioid epidemic. Federal, state and local governments are taking the necessary steps to ensure that drug companies, doctors and pharmacists are doing all they can to ensure the safe and proper delivery of prescription drugs.

There has been a laser-focus on the pharmaceutical side of this issue at the State Capitol in recent legislative sessions. While necessary and effective, that approach often ignores the issue of non-prescription drugs on our streets and in our communities. It also fails to acknowledge the effort of our law enforcement officials who are working to stem the flow of illegal drugs and synthetic opioids flowing into our communities.

While prescription drug overdoses get a lot of press coverage, the reality is that most drug overdoses are a result of illegal drug use. Here in northern Minnesota, we see news stories regarding methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and other drug-related arrests on a semi-regular basis.

Data released this month by the Minnesota Department of Health revealed that for the first time, synthetic opioids were linked to more overdose deaths than prescription painkillers.

In Minnesota, the synthetic opioid fentanyl has been the primary culprit in overdose deaths. Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous and addictive pain management drug that is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin. When it is illegally brought into our country and traded on the streets, it has proven to be deadly.


While certain street drugs are still manufactured locally, the majority of illegal drugs in our communities are trafficked from other states and countries -- most notably China and Mexico.

In fact, the United States Border Control seizures of foreign fentanyl have steadily risen in recent years from nearly 460 pounds in 2016 to 1,800 pounds in 2018. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has identified China as the primary source of illicit fentanyl in the country. The brave men and women working to protect our borders have dedicated themselves to keeping deadly drugs out of our country and they deserve our support and appreciation.

In our area, we are doing what we can to deal with the realities of this fight. Law enforcement, elected officials, and community leaders are committed to making our communities safer.

Our legislative and other leaders in St. Paul and Washington must understand that local law enforcement and border control officials on the front lines of this fight cannot be successful without adequate funding. Investment in those law enforcement programs and strategies that seek to support the prosecution of drug laws should be a priority.

To properly fight this changing epidemic, we need to continue to develop strategies to ensure additional Minnesotans do not become addicted to opioids and we must redouble our efforts to keep the foreign poison of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs out of our nation and off our streets. Without these efforts, the tragedy of the opioid epidemic and illegal drugs will continue in our communities. This is a real issue that impacts the lives of people from all walks of life.

Poston, R-Lake Shore, represents District 9A in the Minnesota House of Representatives

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