MN Health and Law Enforcement Officials Work to End Addiction Issues

By KBJR News 1

November 9, 2012 Updated Nov 9, 2012 at 5:30 PM CST

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Progress in the field of addiction studies has made leaps and bounds, say officials, and it begins with understanding that addiction is a disease.

While CEO for the Duluth Center of Alcohol and Drug Treatment, Gary Olson, says addicts should be held responsible for their behaviors, he stresses that people need to understand that addiction is far from a choice.

"It really hijacks the reward system, which is really a very deep part of the brain. So, addicts really lose control because they really have no conscious control over the cravings and urge to continue their addiction," said Olson.

And the best way to address a disease, says Olson, is to nip what causes it in the bud.

Not an easy task, says Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, when highly addictive synthetic drugs are being sold over the counter in Northland stores, like the Last Place on Earth.

But synthetic drug–related issues are relatively small compared to the Northland's growing heroin problem—and related property and domestic crimes—that many officials are saying starts in our hospitals with the liberal prescription of opiates for pain.

"You have insurance companies that will pay for tons and tons of pills—$400 or $500 a pop for a prescription—yet they don't want to pay for [addiction] therapy," said Chemical Dependency Counselor Roger Sayen, who also added that the average doctor receives six hours of education on understanding the causes and effects of painkiller addiction.

Sayen says more resources are needed to educate those who prescribe painkillers on their highly addictive qualities, but responsibility also falls on the addict.

"Clients have a responsibility to go and tell the doctor, 'I'm an addict, I'm an alcoholic, I don't want addictive types of medication," said Sayen.

And while addiction can't be stopped, early treatment and prevention programs, like St. Louis County Drug Court and Superior Babies Program for addiction–prone mothers, could be the answer when it comes to eradicating recidivism.

"...getting people into treatment early, identifying problems early—it's not only going to pay off at that point in time, but it's really going to impact society 10, 15, 20 years down the road when that individual is a much healthier individual in a whole variety of ways," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger.

...working toward a solution to a problem that has no visible end.