68 percent of adult male arrestees test positive for drug use

A new federal study found that 68 percent of adult men booked into the Hennepin County jail tested positive for illegal drug use during a random, voluntary sampling conducted earlier this year.

Marijuana was the most common drug detected — 55 percent of those arrested tested positive — followed by cocaine at 16 percent, opiates at six percent, methamphetamines at 4 percent and oxycodone at 1.5 percent. Nearly 19 percent of the new inmates tested positive for more than one drug.

Carol Falkowski, a drug abuse strategy officer for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said the results are not surprising.

"Being addicted to illegal drugs is expensive and so you often see this connection between crime and criminal behavior and drug addiction because people have to acquire money to get their drugs," she said.

The study, which tested 422 arrestees from April to June, found slight changes since a similar study last year, but many of those changes are within margins of error. For example, overall drug use dropped 2.4 percent this year. The margin of error is 3.7 percent for 2011 and 2.2 percent for 2010.

Hennepin County is one of ten sites around the country that participates in the federal initiative to track drug use among arrestees. The studies are funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Study results from the other nine sites have not yet been released.

Statewide data shows an increase in the number of Minnesotans seeking treatment for heroin and illegal painkiller use and a decrease in the number seeking treatment for methamphetamine and cocaine use from 2007 to 2010.

Falkowski said the state data shows that communities responded quickly to concerns about meth use, but have been reluctant to confront heroin use.

"There's the stigma that heroin is a very hardcore drug and many communities under any circumstance are reluctant to admit that they have that in their community," she said.

Falkowski said the Department of Human Services is working to educate communities about how to address the problem and help people find treatment.

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