Minnesota heroin use still high -- now meth's back, too

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 22, 2013 - 7:10 AM

Deaths and hospital admissions linked to meth are climbing.

Local law enforcement agencies are seeing an alarming rise in the sale of heroin on streets.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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With heroin and other opiate use remaining at what experts call alarmingly high levels, there’s new cause for concern: Methamphetamine is back.

The resurgence of the dangerous, addictive meth is described in a new report on drug trends in the Twin Cities by Carol Falkowksi, a private consultant and former drug abuse strategy czar for Minnesota.

Meth overdose deaths rose from 10 to 21 from 2011 to 2012 in Ramsey and Hennepin counties alone, there are more emergency-room admissions and the number of meth labs is beginning to creep up again after state and federal efforts to shutter them a half-dozen years ago, she said.

The stimulant accounted for nearly a quarter of all drugs seized by police in the seven-county metro area last year.

“It’s the No. 1 drug seized,” Falkowski said, adding that there’s no single reason for the resurgence.

Across the state, 27 meth labs were busted last year, compared with 18 in 2011 and 100 in 2005 — when state and federal laws were being rewritten to limit sales of precursor ingredients and authorities shut down mom-and-pop meth labs.

Serious issues tied to meth emerged about a decade ago in Minnesota, with concerns that county jails were filling with thieving addicts, that teen girls who tried it to lose weight were getting hooked, and that people were unwittingly buying homes where meth had been cooked.

“By 2005, there was hardly a Minnesota community untouched by meth,” said Falkowski. “Now that is the case with heroin and opiate addiction, and add to the mix the looming resurgence of meth.”

By 2006, the number of meth labs was dropping off dramatically in the state. But much of meth flows into the Midwest from Mexico, authorities say, and demand for the addictive stimulant never died. Some meth cooks also have figured out ways to have lots of people buy small quantities of a government-limited precursor ingredient, pseudoephedrine.

The number of meth deaths in the past year is small but frightening in implications, Falkowski said. Hospital emergency-room visits due to meth use rose 59 percent from 2009 through 2011.

And treatment admissions climbed by 20 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Meanwhile, opiate deaths in Ramsey County have soared, from 36 in 2011 to a record high of 45 in 2012. That’s a 25 percent increase, Falkowski said.

In Ramsey and Hennepin counties combined, opiate-related accidental overdose deaths rose 40 percent from 2010 to 2012, up from 92 to 129 dead.

Heroin-involved emergency-room visits nearly tripled from 2004 to 2011, Falkowski’s report said.

“Heroin-related admissions to addiction treatment centers were at record-high levels in 2012, accounting for 12.9 percent of total admissions to treatment,” Falkowski said. “Among these individuals, 41.6 percent were between the ages of 18 and 25.”

Last year, of 21,051 people who sought chemical dependency treatment in the metro area, 7.4 percent were primarily addicted to meth. Heroin was the reason for 12.9 percent of all admissions.

Alcohol accounted for 46.5 percent of all admissions to treatment.

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