Bordering Canada and Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, Minnesota is home to the internationally known “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul. With a range of attractions including world-class museums, nature trails and sports including the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota has something for residents and tourists alike to enjoy.
But although Minnesota is rich in both natural beauty and city amenities, this state of nearly 6 million people is also struggling with a serious problem: rising rates of drug addiction and overdose deaths caused by opioid drugs, mainly those prescribed by physicians.
Opioids are a highly addictive class of drugs that includes morphine, the street drug heroin, and a number of synthetic drugs such as the painkillers OxyContin and Vicodin. All these drugs act as central nervous system depressants, blocking pain messages to the brain and causing feelings of pleasure, relaxation and drowsiness.
Used for long periods of time or in large amounts, these drugs also cause changes in the brain’s pathways of pleasure and reward. Because they attach to natural opioid receptors throughout the body, users become physically dependent on them, so that stopping the drug causes painful and sometimes life threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Doctors prescribe opioids for a variety of legitimate reasons, but these drugs can quickly become addictive, so that users seek out more and more. When prescription opioids aren’t available, users often seek out heroin, which can be cheaper and easier to get. Quitting opioids can be challenging, but medications such as methadone can help. In Minnesota, methadone clinics offer methadone treatment along with other recovery services designed to help anyone with an addiction to opioids.