Panelists discuss Minnesota’s opioid epidemic, highlight National Drug Take Back Day

Panelists discuss Minnesota’s opioid epidemic, highlight National Drug Take Back Day

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KEYC) — During the pandemic, officials say drug overdoses have skyrocketed, partly due to fentanyl, a deadly fast acting synthetic opioid.

In an effort to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic, a group of panelists with Mayo Clinic held a media briefing Wednesday.

According to the CDC, more than 87,000 people have died of a drug overdose in the one-year period ending in September 2020.

In Minnesota, drug overdoses jumped by 32 percent, which is higher than the national average.

“We talk about morphine as the opioid people get as it’s a pain reliever. Heroin is about twice as potent, and if you compare that fentanyl it’s about 100 times more potent than morphine,” Mayo Clinic Opioid Stewardship Program, chair Halena Gazelka said.

A Mankato mother and Mayo Clinic paramedic Judy Greske knows that hardship first-hand. She lost her son in September from an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl.

“I just want people to know people with addiction, it’s an illness. Just like cancer, we wouldn’t turn our backs on someone with cancer, we should not be turning our backs on someone with addiction problems,” said Greske.

The discussion comes ahead of National Drug Take-Back Day.

“People don’t go out into the street and take heroin the first time they take an opioid typically, they get a prescription opioid from someone. (Or) they either have it prescribed to themselves after a surgery or procedure...they get a taste of Oxycodone and that accelerates to other drugs,” said Gazelka.

Locally, Mankato is to host a drug drop-off drive-thru at the Mankato Public Safety Center on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Often it’s the very legal drugs that start someone out on a path to addiction. So we want to get those legal drugs back out of those medicine cabinets. Don’t leave those in the cabinets where your grandkids can find them,” said Gazelka.

Throughout the 10-year span of Take-Back Day, the DEA has collected more than 6,800 tons of prescriptions.

In addition, Mankato also provides a 24-hour anonymous drug drop box disposal service at the Public Safety Center.

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