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"Stop Overdose" Campaign Highlights Heroin, Opioid Abuse in ND

State health experts have launched a new campaign aimed at curbing the growing number of heroin and prescription opioid-related overdose deaths in North Dakota. (iStockphoto)
State health experts have launched a new campaign aimed at curbing the growing number of heroin and prescription opioid-related overdose deaths in North Dakota. (iStockphoto)
May 10, 2016

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Health experts host a community meeting today in Grand Forks to talk about the growing problems of prescription drug and heroin abuse in North Dakota.

The meeting is part of the state Department of Human Services' newly-launched "Stop Overdose" campaign.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of overdose deaths in North Dakota jumped from 20 in 2013 to 43 just a year later.

Behavioral Health Division Director Pamela Sagness says the bulk of medications that are abused come from an often unsuspecting family member or friend.

"We want to look at limiting access to prescription drugs that are unneeded or unused," says Sagness. "In North Dakota, we have 'take-back' programs that are located across the state in law enforcement centers, but also, that work has been expanded to include pharmacies."

Part of today's meeting will detail how families can help reduce drug abuse by safeguarding their medications in the home, or by helping them find local drug take-back sites.

Sagness says another goal is to raise public awareness that treatment and help are available not only for drug users, but also for their families and friends.

"North Dakotans are becoming more and more aware of the impact that heroin and prescription drug abuse has had on our state," Sagness says. "There are effective things that communities can do in order to really play a role in the solution to prescription drug abuse and opioid abuse in their community."

And North Dakota isn't alone. Nationally, the CDC says prescription drug overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999. In 2014, almost two-thirds of those deaths involved some some type of opioid, including heroin.

More information about drug abuse treatment is online at prevention.nd.gov.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND