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Heroin use is growing in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, while abuse of opiate painkillers, such as methadone and oxycodone, may be decreasing, according to a new report.

Treatment centers in the area reported a small decrease in the number of people admitted for opiate abuse in the first half of 2012, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

“Heroin and other opiates are second only to the number of people coming into treatment for alcohol,” said Carol Falkowski, who wrote the new report. “That is a relatively new phenomena in the Twin Cities and something that we should all be concerned about.”

The report follows national trends in heroin and opiate painkiller use, the article notes. A study published last summer in the New England Journal of Medicine found that as OxyContin abuse has decreased now that the painkiller has been reformulated to make it more difficult to misuse, many people have switched to heroin.

Dr. Gavin Bart, who directs the Division of Addiction Medicine at Hennepin County Medical Center, said Minneapolis/St. Paul is seeing an influx of the cheapest, purest heroin in the United States. “What is probably happening is there’s a marketing battle between the dealers and the people who peddle prescription opiates and the heroin traffickers,” he said. “In order to get good customers you increase the quality and decrease the price, which is what’s happened with heroin and it’s just pulling market share from the prescription opiate addicts.”

Opiate painkillers are becoming more difficult to obtain, because the state’s prescription monitoring program allows doctors to see if other physicians have written opiate prescriptions for the same patient, Bart noted. While doctors in the state are not required to use the database, more health systems are incorporating it, he added.


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