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North Dakota—known as "The Peace Garden State"—boasts 39.1 million acres of working farms and ranches, taking up nearly 90% of its land area, and the state leads the nation in the production of spring wheat, durum wheat, dry edible peas, dry edible beans, honey, flaxseed and canola. But in addition to its many crops, North Dakota (sadly) has an abundance of something else-drug and alcohol addiction.
North Dakota boasts a relatively comfortable average annual household income level of $84,043, 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. An estimated 5.30 percent of North Dakota residents were past-month users of illicit drugs, and according to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), drug arrests in the state have increased 488% in the past 25 years. Additionally, in the past five years, rates of heroin and methamphetamine related drug violations have skyrocketed. Perhaps it's due to the relatively remote living that many North Dakotans experience, or the especially long winters, but whatever the cause, North Dakota drug and alcohol abuse is a major 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 North Dakota. In 2016 the United States had over 60,000 overdoses, (a rate of 175 people dying per day.) 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 that is difficult to shake once its begun.
Much like the rest of the United States, opioid addiction has blown across North Dakota like an unstoppable blizzard, wreaking havoc on communities and tearing families apart. In North Dakota, about half of the 70 reported drug overdose deaths involved opioids in 2018—a total of 36 fatalities (and a rate of 5.2.) 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 North Dakota 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, North Dakota providers wrote 37.4 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people!
Sadly many North Dakota 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 resulted in the use of street drugs like heroin (which gives a similar high and is even cheaper to obtain on the street) growing exponentially. 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. 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.
A recent study took a look at the substances most commonly abused by youth in North Dakota, and the numbers are concerning:
4% of North Dakota youth (ages 12-17) report 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.)
The good news for North Dakota residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. The Peace Garden State 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 people of North Dakota are incredibly resilient and it's in that indistinguishable spirit that you'll succeed. The important part is acknowledging the forces holding you back so you can shrug them off, take the very first step, and begin the journey towards breaking free.
North Dakota State Facts
North Dakota Population: 640,524
Law Enforcement Officers in North Dakota: 1,571
North Dakota Prison Population: 1,700
North Dakota Probation Population: 2,970
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 19
2004 Federal Drug Seizures inNorth Dakota
Cocaine: 0.1 kgs.
Heroin: 0.0 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 0.1 kgs.
Marijuana: 5.9 kgs.
Ecstasy: 1 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 60 (DEA, state, and local)
North Dakota Drug Situation: The trafficking and use of methamphetamine is the primary concern for law enforcement and public health officials in North Dakota. At the present time, no single drug trafficking organization dominates the distribution of methamphetamine. Mexican poly-drug organizations have sources of supply in Mexico, California, and Washington, and transport methamphetamine into North Dakota via privately owned vehicles, Amtrak trains, and Greyhound buses. Smaller quantities of methamphetamine are mailed via U.S. mail and Federal Express. Mexico-based drug trafficking organizations dominate the transportation of marijuana from the Southwest Border to North Dakota. Private vehicles and commercial mail carriers are used to ship small quantities, ranging from five to ten pounds. Local cultivation of marijuana is done on a relatively small scale.
Cocaine in North Dakota: Cocaine is no longer the stimulant of choice; methamphetamine surpassed cocaine in that area two years ago. According to RAC Behrman, the Fargo office encounters very little cocaine today.
Heroin in North Dakota: Heroin distribution and use have not been a significant problem in North Dakota. Heroin trafficking is a low priority for law enforcement agencies in the state. Virtually all of the heroin encountered in North Dakota, mainly in Fargo, is black tar heroin from Mexico.
Methamphetamine in North Dakota: The methamphetamine threat in North Dakota is a two-pronged problem. First, quantities of meth produced by Mexican organizations based in California and Washington are transported into and distributed throughout the state. Second, meth is increasingly being produced in small laboratories, capable of producing only a few ounces at a time. Because of the extreme rural nature of the state, as well as the state's dependence on the agriculture industry, there is a high level of use and availability of anhydrous ammonia among the state's legitimate agricultural community. Farmers use "nurse tanks" to apply anhydrous ammonia in their fields. This has resulted in increased thefts of anhydrous ammonia-commonly used in the "Birch" meth manufacturing method. A DEA investigation in Grand Forks, North Dakota, resulted in the arrest of two Mexican nationals and the seizure of over ten pounds of meth. A co-conspirator in the same case was arrested for attempted murder of a police officer and possession of over seven pounds of meth. Another meth case resulted in the arrest of two suspects and the seizure of 10 assault rifles and $10,000 in cash. According to the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), the number of meth laboratories seized by the DEA and state and local law enforcement agencies has increased sharply over the past few years.
Club Drugs in North Dakota: There have been indications that “Club Drugs” are making their way into the Fargo area in small quantities.
Marijuana in North Dakota: The presence, of marijuana cultivated in Canada (both "B.C. Bud" and hydroponically generated) had increased dramatically. Canadian drug organizations from Vancouver and Manitoba use the wide North Dakota border with Canada to bring these types of marijuana into the United States; the bulk of the marijuana is destined to areas outside North Dakota.
Other Drugs in North Dakota: There is no significant diversion of legitimate drugs to report.
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 have been no MET deployments in the State of North Dakota.
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 North Dakota.
DEA Special Topics: Currently, there are six Task Force Officers, representing five law enforcement agencies, assigned to the DEA in North Dakota. North Dakota is covered by the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), along with Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The Midwest HIDTA has established four initiatives in North Dakota: Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Bismarck, Fargo (DEA Task Force), and Grand Forks. The Midwest HIDTA initially was created to concentrate on fighting the overwhelming increase in the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine. Accordingly, Midwest HIDTA funds were restricted to methamphetamine investigations. In 2001, this stipulation was lifted, allowing law enforcement agencies to investigate poly-drug trafficking groups.