We are deeply saddened by our neighbor Prince’s death. I am hopeful that his tragic ending and its suspected link with prescription narcotics will do more than just put a spotlight on the opioid epidemic in Minnesota (“Opioid epidemic toll widens,” April 30). That spotlight is late to the game that has been ravaging our state for some time.

We have an opportunity to change our course if state and community leaders step up and start addressing this problem with the urgency it deserves. All of the “experts” will tell you that we need a multipronged approach to such a complex problem. Tackling the medical, legal, recovery and prevention aspects of the opioid epidemic will not be quick and easy, but it will be tremendously less costly in terms of both lives and money if we get off the dime and act now.

Schools have a moral and ethical obligation to insert prevention and awareness programs into their health curricula now, not in the next curriculum review three years down the road. Law enforcement authorities need the resources to investigate and arrest drug dealers now, not in the next election period.

We live less than a mile from Paisley Park, and we tragically lost our son to opioids a few months ago. Hundreds of other beautiful souls in our state have lost their battle against these “take no prisoners” drugs. It is absolutely heartbreaking and inexcusable that so many deaths — more than 300 last year alone, according to the Star Tribune article — have gone mostly unnoticed and uninvestigated. Maybe Prince’s death will set a precedent for how these are deaths are investigated and potentially prosecuted.

Prince was a talented icon whose death is a true and utterly senseless loss. If his fame and tragic death help shine a spotlight on the opioid epidemic in our state, then he has done more than just left the world with his beautiful music and humanitarian efforts. The time for action is now.

Colleen Ronnei, Chanhassen

• • •

There have been repeated stories in the Star Tribune about the opioid epidemic, most recently noting the 2015 toll of 336 deaths linked to opioids. While horrific, it pales in comparison to the toll of lives lost and economic cost of excessive alcohol use.

In my occupation, I regularly work with a variety of addicts and pain-management clinics. For those with chronic pain, without professional management, self-medication is almost inevitable. A reputable pain-management clinic requires potential clients to provide medical documentation; randomized drug testing; contracts to eliminate drug seeking behavior, and pill counts to hold patients accountable. What isn’t monitored closely is alcohol use.

In my experience, those who abuse opioids frequently abuse alcohol, a statistically more dangerous drug. “Excessive drinking is associated with a lot more causes of death than what we tend to focus on. Alcohol intake plays a role in at least 54 different conditions linked to death,” according to Mandy Stahre, lead researcher at the Washington State Department of Health. From 2006 to 2010, excessive alcohol consumption accounted for 1 in 10 deaths for working-age adults in the U.S. (Preventing Chronic Disease, June 2014).

The economic cost is daunting as well. “For the most recent year data is available, the overall economic costs associated with alcohol use in Minnesota amounted to an estimated $5.06 billion. This amounts to $975 for every person in the state. These costs are 17 times greater than the $296 million in tax revenue collected from alcohol sales.” (Minnesota Department of Health 2011). Minnesota last raised the alcohol tax in 1987. The alcohol tax is not indexed to inflation. When we start taxing alcohol like cigarettes to fund the true social cost, we may start to get a handle on the addiction epidemic.

Shanlee Speeter, Minneapolis

PROMOTING RECYCLING

Incentives, disincentives and that old standby — an extra bin

Regarding the frustrated lead letter writer (May 2) who is restricted to a recycle pickup every other week, I’d like to piggyback her complaint with one of my own. I called my local hauler recently and asked for a smaller garbage bin due to heavier recycling at my household. By downgrading, I was told that my bill for the month would shrink by only $1. Huh? What is the incentive to recycle if I have limited recycle space and a more generous landfill opportunity? Garbage haulers need to pitch in with a greater emphasis toward less waste. Who knows — for haulers, less may mean more convenience with more profits.

Sharon E. Carlson, Andover

• • •

The responsible recycler who wrote the May 2 letter cannot be blamed for the crushed box of Oreos on display in the recycling bin in the accompanying photo. Still, there is room in everyone’s recycling strategies to consider the bigger picture: What is really worth consuming? We can all do a little better with responsible purchases.

But here’s the eureka moment: The writer inadvertently highlights a ripe cost-saving measure that cities and the county should be piloting: every-other-week garbage pickup. As she states, her family “produces far less garbage” than recyclables, and with the recent introduction of organic recycling bins, there is no reason (outside of labor relations) why garbage collection should continue on a weekly basis. With three responsible waste alternatives, there is no longer a sanitation or health rationale for weekly pickup.

Let’s reduce or recycle taxpayer dollars: Begin simultaneous collection of garbage, recyclables and organic waste every other week.

Steve Watson, Minneapolis

• • •

I read with some amusement that May 2 letter bemoaning the lack of adequate bins for the writer’s recycling. We had the same issue with every-other-week pickup — so I called the recycling provider, which dropped off a second bin. Rocket science it wasn’t.

John F. Hetterick, Plymouth

SHAKESPEARE AND TODAY’S POLITICS

Here’s an apt passage

Recent submissions by Steven B. Young (Opinion Exchange, April 27) and Michael Woolsey (Readers Write, April 29) analyze the genius of Shakespeare and applications of his perspectives to contemporary politics. Both are worthwhile endeavors. The Bard of Avon offers wisdom on all manner of topics, including the arrogance of those who aspire to power.

Isabella’s admonition of Angelo in Act 2 of “Measure for Measure” describes so accurately some of the characters campaigning for the presidency:

 

Dress’d in a little brief authority,

Most arrogant of what he’s most assur’d —

His glassy essence — like an angry ape

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven

As makes the angels weep.

 

Shakespeare would find the political drama and antics of narcissistic, uninformed and moralistic candidates and their handlers to be both comical and tragic. Choose your heroes and villains carefully.

Phil George, Lakeville