Minnesotans have become more aware of the dangers of prescription medication overdoses over the last decade. Despite having the -lowest overdose rate in the country in 2017, law enforcement isn’t content with that number. Opioid overdoses kill hundreds of people in-state alone and a new initiative looks to reduce that number closer to zero.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has opened a new office in Duluth where medication overdoses have increased. This partnership will allow local law enforcement to combat the effort by giving them access to the DEA database.

Law enforcement recovered over $300,000 in heroin – a Duluth record — in June during a drug bust and is hoping that working with the DEA will allow them to slow the supply of opioids into the state further. According to the Minnesota U.S. attorney’s office, this year has seen a 77 percent increase in heroin cases from 2018.

DEA Special Agent Richard Salter said that medications have become greater killers than street drugs, though heroin remains an ongoing problem.

Opioid convictions are serious

With an intensifying focus on opioids in Minnesota, residents would be wise to refresh themselves on the dangers of possessing such drugs. Some of these drugs, like painkillers and muscle relaxers, may be legal with a prescription but you could find yourself in trouble for carrying someone else’s medications.

Possessing just one-quarter of a gram of an opioid like Fentanyl and Oxycodone is a fifth-degree crime and can lead to up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The law’s tolerance for heroin is even lower as you could receive the same punishment for possessing just 0.05 grams. It’s clear that small amounts of these drugs can lead to large problems.

For reference, one gram is about the size of a sugar packet. It takes much less than that to lead to significant legal problems.

A step in the right direction

It’s possible that the efforts of local and federal law enforcement up north could make our community safer. Slowing the pipeline of prescription and street drugs like opioids and heroin is a win for all of us. The consequences for involvement with these drugs can cost you money, your freedom and even your life.