More opioid painkillers are being distributed legally in Minnesota than ever before, a St. Paul Pioneer Press and Duluth News Tribune investigation has found. Last year, enough of the two leading painkillers — oxycodone and hydrocodone — was distributed in the state to provide 18 pills for every man, woman and child. That’s up from two pills per person in 1997.
Though Minnesota ranks low compared with the rest of the U.S. in opioid prescriptions, the drugs’ impact on the state has been no less devastating. As the use of the painkillers has gone up, so have rates of addiction, crime, arrests. and overdose deaths. Particularly alarming, experts say: Prescription pill addicts have been switching to heroin, and Mexican drug dealers have flooded the Twin Cities with some of the cheapest and purest heroin available in the U.S. “Clearly, we have all the ingredients of a prescription opiate and heroin epidemic in the state of Minnesota,” said Carol Falkowski, Minnesota’s former drug-abuse strategy officer.