The key word for illicit drugs in Minnesota? Alarming.

March 6, 2017

​Photo: From methamphetamine to prescription pills, drugs are being seized at an alarming rate in Minnesota.
​Photo: From methamphetamine to prescription pills, drugs are being seized at an alarming rate in Minnesota.

If you’re wondering how big a problem illicit drug use is here in Minnesota, you need only ask how many state agencies are working to solve it and how they feel about the problem. Spoiler alert: The answers are “a lot” and “alarmed.”

Various agencies around the state compile drug statistics throughout the year. They shared the results with the public in a news conference, and they’re not pretty.

For example, Violent Crime Enforcement Teams (VCETs), which are partially funded by our Office of Justice Programs, seized 488 pounds of meth last year. That’s a shocking 484 percent increase since 2009, when meth seizures were at their lowest level of 83 pounds. The VCETs’ seizures of prescription pills (such as opioids) have had a similar increase of 231 percent in just one year: a staggering 58,578 pills in 2016 compared to just 17,717 in 2015.

And although the number of meth labs have decreased from 410 in 2003 to 13 in 2016, meth is now coming in from other places, such as Mexico. Most of Minnesota’s heroine is coming from Mexico, too, and other drugs are coming in from China.

Meanwhile, special agents in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spent over 28,000 hours working narcotics cases in 2016.

The Department of Human Services reported that 11,555 people were admitted to treatment for meth use in Minnesota. That’s a 72 percent spike over its last peak, which was in 2005.

The Minnesota Department of Health chimes in to report that over 500 people died from drug overdoses, which represents a 400 percent increase from 2000’s 129 drug overdose deaths. And although first responders are preventing a lot of deaths with Narcan, the goal is not to need it in the first place.

These are an awful lot of numbers, so let’s wrap up by taking a moment to look at the Minnesotans they represent. This is not a rural issue or an urban issue. There’s no stereotype of a typical drug user. The people affected by this alarming trend are our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones.  Drug abuse kills, ruins lives and tears families apart.

Which is why we all need to help these state agencies, law enforcement, and health care providers solve this problem. Whether you’re a parent, an educator, or a peer of someone who uses drugs, you can speak out and help turn around this alarming trend.