Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Getting help for addicts

Opioid epidemic rages on


November 9, 2017

Help rather than enforcement is the method used to assist people who use opioids, said Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake and Fond du Lac Police Chief Mike Diver at the November 1 meeting of the Carlton County TRIAD and Fond du Lac Concerned Elders group.

“We can’t enforce our way out of the problem,” said Lake. “There are several pieces to tackling the problem, and education is one piece. Dealers are the reason so many people get addicted to drugs. That’s where enforcement comes in.”

Diver told the group steps are being taken to help those people that are addicted.

“We have a group of Natives that have decided to help,” he said. “They go and stand in front of a home where drug use is known and tell the occupants they are loved and that help is available. Treatment is available, but there are limited beds and limited facilities.”

Lake said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke to a crowd in Cloquet recently about drug use and was unprepared with resources for people that came forward and asked for help.

“We also see people come into the jail,” she said. “They have been charged with a crime, but need treatment for drugs. Sometimes we have to wait for weeks or a month before a treatment bed opens up.”

There are no facilities to help an addict after treatment, Lake added.

“We see a lack of supportive housing, like a halfway house,” she said. “Sometimes the addict goes to a friend’s house who is a user and that person gets right back into it.”

Diver said the heroin crisis is not new, but it is different.

“There was a heroin crisis back in the 1970s,” he said. “But the heroin of today is different. It is 100 times more addictive.”

Lake spoke about the danger of contamination from carfentanil, the highly potent elephant tranquilizer that many addicts are now using.

“EMS, first responders and law enforcement personnel are affected if they even touch it,” she said.

Diver spoke about how opioid pain medication can lead to herion addiction.

“My cousin had a back problem,” he said. “He was on medication for pain, but the body gets used to it. He had to take higher doses. His doctor said he was prescribing the medication because he was delaying surgery. He gave the cousin another pill and he became addicted to pain medication. Then he gave him methadone to get off the pain medication.

“He had the surgery on his back and got off of the pain medication. Later, he started getting bone spurs on his shoulders. His doctor wanted to give him pain medication, but he asked for surgery first. He didn’t want to get addicted to the pain medication again.

“There was an attractive woman that lived in a nice home. She was a stay-at-home mom. Her husband worked at a big company here in Cloquet. She kept the house clean and took care of the children. When she worked around the house, she would carry her baby in front of her in a carrier and she began to experience back problems. She got medication for the pain and a couple of years later, she was addicted to heroin.

“Within two years, she lost her husband, her nice home and her looks. I had to go and sit with her at the hospital. She said she didn’t know what happened. She lived on the street and sold her body to get money for heroin.”

“Four out of five heroin users started with prescription drugs,” said Lake. “We just took a call the other day about a user. We ended up giving him Narcan. That temporarily takes them out of it.”

Lake explained all of the law enforcement and emergency personnel carry Narcan (naloxone), a drug that can reverse the effects of drug overdoses.

“It blocks the receptors in the brain,” said Diver. “First we check to see if the person has had an opioid drug overdose and then we give the person naloxone. The onset of that takes roughly three minutes. If the person does not respond, we give the person another dose. Those wear off in 90 minutes. We call an ambulance. If they don’t go to the hospital, they can go back into another overdose. One person had to be on a Narcan drip for five hours. He had a lot of opioid drugs in his system.”

Lake said Narcan is available in pharmacies, but resources are needed to continue treatment.

“People are saying they can party as long as they have naloxone, but that is not true,” she said.

It is not only dealers that are selling drugs to people.

“It is a doctor problem, too,” said Diver. “They hear the message about the high rate of addiction, but the patients are asking for the drugs. There is no one good answer. We need to do something as a community, too.”

Lake said drug addiction is also a mental health problem.

“For drug addicts, there is a higher chance that it is a mental health issue as well,” she said. “There is also a shortage of beds for mental illness. The state hospitals have all shut down. We are trying to see what we can do in the community.”

Diver said an enclosed trailer is being purchased. It will be set up like a teen’s room and items will be placed in the trailer that are associated with drug use. People will be able to go inside the trailer and point out objects that give clues to drug use.

“It will be a great educational piece for parents and grandparents,” he said. “You will see things left out in the open, but you don’t know that they are clues about drug use. We will bring it from place to place, like schools and other communities to educate everyone.”

Programs about opioid drug use are coming up in Carlton County.

Naloxone training set for Nov. 30


Community-wide training opportunity November 30

These training opportunities and naloxone kits are free and open to all. Community members, area professionals, area schools and faculty, coalition members and anyone else interested in learning about naloxone are welcome.

- 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College atrium (cafeteria on site), 2101 14th St, Cloquet

- 3:30-5:30 p.m., Miller Dwan Auditorium, 502 E. Second St. Duluth

- 7-9 p.m., Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College auditorium, 2101 14th St, Cloquet


Questions: Contact Laura Palombi, UM College of Pharmacy, Duluth Campus, (218) 726-6066; Ali Mueller, Carlton County PHHS, (218) 878-2858


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