ST. CLOUD -- Law enforcement and medical officials are rekindling the conversation around opioids.

A group of panelists with the Mayo Clinic held a media briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Kevin Torgerson is the Olmsted County Sheriff. He says drug overdose is an epidemic not just limited to Minnesota.

We are in siege, there is a siege in America right now with drugs. It's mind boggling in what we are seeing as it comes up here all across the country.

According to the CDC, more than 87,000 people have died of a drug overdose in a one year period. In Minnesota, drug overdoses jumped by 32 percent, a rate higher than the national average.

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Halena Gazelka is the chair of Mayo Clinic's Opioid Stewardship Program. She says fentanyl laced drugs are a key contributor to the spike in overdose deaths.

We talk about morphine as the opioid people get as it's a pain reliever. Heroin is about twice as potent, and if you compare that fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine.

Gazelka says prior to the pandemic they felt they were making strides in their fight against drug overdoses, however as people had limited access to resources during the pandemic, the progress has regressed.

Teri Rummans is a Psychiatrist with the Mayo Clinic. She says there are several factors that can lead someone to a drug addition.

One of our residents new immediately if she took another opioid she would be in big trouble as her dad had an addiction. If kids are abused early in life, there brain changes and it sets them up with problems including addictive behaviors, poor choice of peers are some examples.

Judy Greske is a registered paramedic with Mayo Clinic, who lost her son in September from a heroin overdose. She says she wants to use her story as a reminder that addiction is an illness, and we shouldn't turn our back on people who need help.

I want people to know people with addiction have an illness. Just like we wouldn't turn our backs on someone with cancer, we shouldn't turn our backs on someone with addiction problems.

Greske says opioid addiction isn't a problem that will be solved overnight, and it's going to take all of us working together to recognize and combat drug abuse.

 

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