To halt heroin advance, first spot prescription abuse, expert says

Bags of heroin are on display at a press conference given by Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom and Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart, on Thursday, April 12, 2012. Looking like pieces of hard candy, each piece could sell for $20 on the street. Officers found the bag hidden in an air conditioner.
MPR photo/Rupa Shenoy

A state expert on addiction says Minnesota needs to do a better job of monitoring prescription drug abuse, which is being blamed for an increase in heroin overdose deaths.

Carol Falkowski, director of the alcohol and drug abuse division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, says law enforcement and medical officials should be better trained to deal with prescription drug abuse.

"You have to educate doctors, you need to educate professionals and the public about medications and kids about not using other peoples' medicine," she told MPR's Morning Edition on Friday. "Certainly law enforcement is part of the equation, disposing of prescription drugs, and also prescription monitoring programs."

Falkowski also says young people who use prescription drugs often move on heroin. She says the supply found in the Twin Cities is very pure which makes it more potent.

"Even experienced users can get one of these potent batches of heroin and overdose very easily because it's just that strong of a drug and it can just stop your breathing," she said.

Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka County Sheriffs say the number of heroin-related deaths in their three metro area counties nearly tripled last year, from 16 in 2010 to 46 in 2011.

Young people who abuse prescription drugs often move on to heroin in search of a more potent high.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!