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The Opioid Epidemic Has Officially Hit North Dakota

REUTERS/US DEA/Handout via Reuters

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Heroin and opioid abuse is rising at an alarming rate in North Dakota, and state officials are warning that everyone is vulnerable to the mounting epidemic.

Officials said the state experienced a 400 percent increase in heroin use between 2013 and 2015, which appears to be accelerating. Six percent of people receiving drug addiction treatment in North Dakota cite heroin use, up from just 1 percent in 2012.

Authorities are warning that the epidemic can affect anyone, from the poor to affluent, with many heroin addicts beginning with a prescription for painkillers. Heroin related criminal charges have risen a disturbing 4,300 percent since 2010, reports The Bismarck Tribune.

Emergency responders note a severe uptick in reported heroin overdoses and have had to use the overdose reversal drug naloxone to revive 32 people over the past 42 weeks.

“Now we’re seeing a ton of heroin and other opioids,” Grand Forks Police Lt. Brett Johnson told The Bismarck Tribune. “I never thought we’d see heroin like we do now. Don’t think that you’re immune to it; don’t think it’s the stereotypical druggie.”

Use of prescription painkillers is now more widespread in the U.S. than using tobacco. Many people who overdose on substances like heroin began with a dependence on prescription painkillers, but switch after building high tolerances that made them too expensive.

Authorities in North Dakota are also fearful due to the widespread presence of fentanyl in seized heroin batches. Fentanyl is a painkiller 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. A recent report from the DEA said fentanyl is the primary driver behind America’s current opioid epidemic.

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