HEROIN OVERDOSES: Dramatic increase in Twin Cities deaths - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

HEROIN OVERDOSES: Dramatic increase in Twin Cities deaths, ER admissions

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

The Twin Cities metro is experiencing a dramatic increase in heroin overdose deaths and emergency room admissions for overdoses.

Last year, there were 37 heroin-related deaths in Hennepin County – a more than 900 percent increase over the four deaths reported in 2008.

The new statistics on overdoses were released Thursday morning by the Hennepin County sheriff's office and North Memorial Medical Center.

"Even one death is too many but the high number of deaths from heroin is alarming," said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. "This is heartbreaking for the victims' families and this is the tragic human toll that heroin is having in our communities."

OVERDOSE DEATHS, 2008-2012

2012 is the second year in a row for a dramatic increase in heroin overdose deaths in the Twin Cities. In 2011, the number of overdose deaths more than doubled from the previous year.

2008: 4
2009: 11
2010: 8
2011: 20
2012: 37

CHEAP AND PURE

A 2009 report by the Department of Human Services showed Minneapolis has the highest purity level of Mexican heroin of any U.S. city, and sells the drug for the lowest prices.

An analysis completed in 2012 confirmed heroin from the Twin Cities was 93.5 percent pure compared to other cities in the United States.

PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLER GATEWAY

The heroin epidemic has been fueled by a spike in prescription painkiller abuse – a gateway to the cheaper, and often easier to get, heroin.

A survey released in April showed 24 percent of high school students have abused prescription drugs -- a 33 percent increase from 2008.

"For some teens, painkillers are easier to obtain than alcohol," Stanek said. "It is very easy to get hooked on opiates and that means we are seeing painkiller and heroin addiction throughout the county – urban, suburban, and rural areas have all been effected."

PREVENTING ADDICTION

Last September, Minnesota released a statewide plan to tackle and prevent substance abuse and addiction, with an early focus on the rapid growth in prescription drug and heroin abuse.

The strategy's long-term policy calls for screening services in all health care settings and expanded development of recovery centers throughout the state.

MEDICINE DISPOSAL OPTIONS

The sheriff's office and Hennepin County provide medicine disposal boxes at Sheriff's Office facilities and county courthouses. Residents are urged to secure medicines they need in a safe place in their homes and to properly dispose of expired or unwanted medicine to reduce the risk of abuse. For locations, call 612-348-3777 or visit www.hennepin.us/medicine.

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