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Although Minnesota is officially nicknamed "The North Star State," it's more commonly known as "The Land of 10,000 Lakes," because, well, Minnesota has thousands of lakes—11,842 to be exact! Home to more than 5 million people, and bordered by Canada on the north, Iowa on the south and the Dakotas on the west, Minnesota has extreme seasonal weather swings, ranging from cold and snowy winters to warm and sunny summers. But in addition to extreme weather, Minnesota (sadly) is becoming known for something even more chilling-a rising trend of drug and alcohol addiction.
Minnesota boasts a relatively comfortable average annual income of $90,600 and thus one might be tempted to think that it had been spared the wave of drug addiction affecting poorer states, but nothing could be further from the truth. While the state ranks 28th in the nation for drug use among all age groups, it ranks 8th and 10th for drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 25-year-olds, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Despite the state being fairly well-off in terms of resources, substance abuse in Minnesota gives major cause for concern.
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics, we quickly realize that it's complicated. Drug and alcohol abuse affects the entire country, and no state in the US has been spared, including Minnesota. In 2016 the United States had over 60,000 overdoses, (a rate of 175 people dying per day,) and when we examine the numbers, we see that overdoses kill more people annually than suicides, homicides, car accidents or guns. And, although poorer people are statistically more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, correlation is not causation. This doesn't necessarily mean that people that are more well-off economically are less likely to become addicted. In fact in some cases, wealthy people can be thrown into poverty as a direct result of addiction. Someone who is solidly middle class can fall into poverty if their addiction leads to poor work performance and job loss. And, if someone has been fired from an old job, it can become a great deal harder to get a new one. It's a vicious downward spiral.
Much like the rest of the United States, opioid addiction has blown across Minnesota like a blizzard, wreaking havoc on communities and burying families. In Minnesota, 343 drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018—a rate of 6.3! Opioid addiction is particularly menacing because, due to the highly addictive nature of the drugs, it can sneak up on people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Just as in the rest of the country, the root of the opioid problem in Minnesota stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive pills when, in many cases, lesser drugs like Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. Opioids may seem safe because a doctor prescribes them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a path to full-on dependency. In 2018, Minnesota providers wrote 35.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people! Opioids have unfortunately found their way to Minnesota youth, as well. In 2017, 4% of Minnesota youth (ages 12-17) reported using pain relievers in a way not directed by a doctor in the past year. This is particularly concerning because we know how incredibly addictive these drugs are.
Sadly many Minnesota residents have discovered that abusing prescription painkillers can lead to using even more dangerous substances. Federal and state regulations now try to control and limit the prescribing of opioids, (a valiant effort) but it has had the unintended effect of causing the use of street drugs like heroin (which gives a similar high and is even cheaper to obtain on the street) to skyrocket. In 2011, primary drug treatment admissions in Minnesota for heroin surpassed admissions for cocaine. And, the long spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug addicts often then turn to incredibly dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, (which is far stronger than heroin) and the result is usually a body bag. Initially, most users don't intentionally seek out fentanyl, but once a person has been exposed to a higher toxicity of a drug, the brain chemistry is altered further, and users will seek out the most potent form. At the height of addiction, users are unable to calculate the risk and are willing to go to any length to obtain the high. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
Alcohol is used more often and by more people than any other drug in Minnesota, and the estimated number of 100% alcohol-attributable deaths has increased over the past 17 years by 94%. Studies show that the rate of alcohol-attributable deaths increases with age, with the largest increase over time being among those 50 years and older.
Cocaine accounts for more than 4% of all treatment admissions in Minnesota.
Methamphetamine accounts for more than 9% of all treatment admissions in Minnesota.
Although the situation looks bleak by the numbers, the good news for Minnesota residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. We are more connected now than we have ever been, and The Land of 1,000 Lakes has an abundance of resources to fit every need, whether you just want counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or are seeking full-on detox services. The important part is acknowledging the forces holding you back so you can begin the journey towards breaking free of them. One of Minnesota's favorite sons, Prince, once said "Everyone has a rock bottom." Today you start the long climb back up.
Minnesota State Facts
Minnesota Population: 4,918,066
Law Enforcement Officers in Minnesota: 9,521
Minnesota Prison Population: 12,200
Minnesota Probation Population: 120,638
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 40
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Minnesota
Cocaine: 15.7 kgs.
Heroin: 11.7 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 24.6 kgs.
Marijuana: 499.5 kgs.
Ecstasy: 624 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 96 (DEA, state, and local)
Minnesota Drug Situation: In Minnesota, Mexican traffickers control the transportation, distribution, and bulk sales of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and small amounts of black-tar heroin. Numerous Mexican groups and street gangs such as the Latin Kings are operating in the state. As a general rule, the upper echelon Mexican distributors in Minnesota transport the majority of their proceeds back to family members residing in Mexico. At the retail level, independent African-American traffickers, African-American street gangs, Native-American gangs, and independent white group purchase cocaine, black-tar heroin, and marijuana from Mexican traffickers. In outlying areas of the state, independent white groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs distribute methamphetamine in small quantities. Street gang activity in Minnesota has increased dramatically over the past few years. African-American gangs appear to be primarily involved in the distribution of crack cocaine.
Cocaine in Minnesota: The majority of cocaine found in Minnesota is purchased from sources of supply in California, Chicago, and Detroit. Some traffickers obtain cocaine directly from sources of supply along the Southwest Border and transport the cocaine to Minnesota themselves. Mexican traffickers control the transportation, distribution, and bulk sales of cocaine. At the retail level, independent African-American traffickers, African-American street gangs (specifically the Gangster Disciples, the Vice Lords, and Crips), Hispanic street gangs (specifically the Latin Kings), Native-American groups, and independent white groups purchase cocaine from Mexican traffickers and distribute it throughout Minnesota. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, crack cocaine is controlled by independent African-American traffickers and African-American street gangs.
Heroin in Minnesota: Heroin distribution and use have not been significant problems in Minnesota, but recent reports indicate there has been an increase in heroin use, especially in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. At the wholesale level, sources of supply include Nigerian/West African traffickers operating from Chicago and New York, African-American street gangs with ties to Chicago, and Mexican traffickers operating from the Southwest Border and from Chicago. At the retail level, heroin is distributed primarily by Hispanic and African-American street gangs.
Methamphetamine in Minnesota: The meth threat in Minnesota is a two-pronged problem. First, large quantities of meth produced by Mexican organizations based in California are transported into and distributed throughout the state. Second, meth increasingly is being produced in small laboratories, capable of producing only a few ounces at a time. Mexican groups, who receive their product from the West Coast, control distribution of the drug. These traffickers typically send meth from California through the U.S. mail, via Federal Express, and by courier.
Club Drugs in Minnesota: Club drugs, including MDMA (Ecstasy), Ketamine, GHB, GBL, Rohypnol, LSD, PCP, methamphetamine, nubain, and, to a lesser extent, psilocybin mushrooms, have been reported in Minnesota. Club drugs are most prevalent in Minneapolis' gay population, and to a lesser extent, among young people at raves and nightclubs in suburban areas. Prior to its placement in Schedule I in February 2000, Minnesota placed state controls on the possession of GHB. Ketamine ("Special K") use first appeared in Minnesota in 1997 among adolescents and young adults. Public awareness of the growing prevalence and dangers of club drug use has been heightened by several recent incidents: five deaths involving MDMA, the meth-related death of a teenager, several large law enforcement cases involving GBL, and a police-related incident involving a youth on LSD.
Marijuana in Minnesota: Marijuana remains the most commonly used and readily available drug in Minnesota according to public health officials. The importation of bulk marijuana shipments into the state of Minnesota is controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Hispanic street gangs are the major distributors of marijuana at the retail level. Marijuana is readily available from local cultivators in addition to the supplies emanating from the Southwest Border. In 2002, 5,427 cultivated plants were seized from 15 indoor grow operations, and 1,238 cultivated plants were eradicated from 16 outdoor plots.
Other Drugs in Minnesota: The use of diverted controlled substances in Minnesota continues to be a problem. The most commonly diverted controlled substances from the licit market are nubain, dilaudid, ritalin, vicodin (hydrocodone), oxycontin, codeine combination products, the benzodiazepines, and the anorectic drugs phentermine and phendimetrazie. Nubain is a prescription narcotic that has recently emerged in the Minneapolis area. This narcotic is being used by body builders who mistakenly believe it acts as a steroid. Four deaths have occurred in the Minneapolis area as a result of nubain being taken with MDMA, and OxyContin being mixed with cocaine. According to local addicts, Klonopin is more readily available than in the past from illegal sources and prescriptions are easily obtained from some doctors. In rural Minnesota it has also appeared under its international, non-United States trade name, "Rivotril," which suggests its importation from foreign sources. Flunitrazepam, trade name "Rohypnol," is a long-acting benzodiapine that is typically combined with alcohol or other drugs to produce incapacitation and memory loss similar to an alcohol-induced blackout. Minnesota law enforcement agencies encountered only small amounts of the drug. Its use as a "date rape" drug is not widespread in Minnesota.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There has been one MET deployment in the State of Minnesota since the inception of the program: Minneapolis.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Minnesota.
DEA Special Topics: The DEA Chicago Field Division is committed to fostering cooperative efforts among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies within Minnesota. A task force consisting of two groups and funded by DEA's State and Local Program is located in Minneapolis. There are 4 Task Force Officers, representing 4 law enforcement agencies, assigned to DEA in Minnesota. There are 23 funded Task Forces throughout Minnesota receiving U.S. Department of Justice Byrne grant money. The DEA participates in the Minneapolis Gang Strike Force (MGSF), which was created in 1997 to combat escalating gang violence in the state. It operates six regional offices. Currently there are over 5,000 confirmed gang members entered into the Minnesota Gang Strike Force Intelligence System and 160 organized gangs.