Among the News Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press’ major findings on opiate-based painkiller prescriptions and abuse: The legal distribution of all opioids increased statewide by 72 percent between 2005 and 2011. The largest increases were in Ramsey County and the northwestern corner of the state. Narcotic prescriptions used to combat pain nearly doubled from 2005 to 2011, when there was enough oxycodone and hydrocodone distributed in Minnesota to provide 18 pills for every man, woman and child. That’s up from two pills per person in 1997. Last year, Duluth had the highest rate of all opiate painkiller distribution in the state at more than 5,000 grams per 10,000 people. St. Louis County and Minneapolis were close behind. There’s been a three-fold increase in the number of Minnesotans who died from prescription opiates between 1999 and 2010. Centers for Disease Control data show 191 people died in 2010, up from 42 people a decade earlier. The number of Minnesotans seeking treatment for opiate addiction has shot up more than 100 percent since 2007, according to data from the Department of Human Services. Emergency rooms are reporting an increase in admissions for opiate overdoses. Local jails are finding an increased number of inmates reporting having used opiates just before being arrested.
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