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FROM THE EDITOR: Let's shine a light on the drug problem

It’s been several months since a probation officer leaned over from a chair along the wall of the Carlton County third floor courtroom and told me I should look into the number of deaths caused by heroin overdose.

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“I bet it’s pretty high,” he said. (I’m certain, not intending any pun.)

“The Drug Problem in Carlton County” series that kicks off in this week’s Pine Journal is a direct result of that brief whispered conversation. For months, as I wrote or read stories that Publisher Wendy Johnson wrote about drug busts around the county, I thought about it. When I saw obituaries for young people who should have been in the prime of their lives, I wondered. And when I watched the Climb Theatre perform their play on heroin and meth for the students at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School, I was compelled to finally stop thinking about it and start interviewing people.

It’s amazing how much drug addiction affects all of us, even if we aren’t addicts or related to addicts. It causes increased crime of all sorts, increased healthcare costs, increased mortality, messed up children, broken marriages, gang activity … the list could go on and on.

“I don’t  think anyone can say that drugs haven’t affected their families,” recently retired Police Chief Wade Lamirande told me. “Even me, the officers here, have seen the negative effects of drugs.”

Part 1 of the series is basically a simple overview of the drug problem in Carlton County.

Please don’t think that we are alone in this battle. As was illustrated by the recent statewide “Operation Exile” heroin bust, drugs are an issue statewide. Largely coordinated by U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), more than 65 arrests were made in the sweep on April 17 and Luger promises more to come.

He noted how heroin abuse has become a significant problem in a number of states around the country, adding that law enforcement is determined to prevent Minnesota from becoming the next state to face such a crisis.

“Our goal is to tackle the problem of heroin addiction before heroin traffickers become embedded in our community. Operation Exile is an important step in making Minnesota off limits to large scale heroin distributors,” said Luger.

That’s the goal of local law enforcement agencies too, from the Minnesota State Patrol and the Lake Superior Drug Task Force to the Carlton County Sheriff’s office and local police departments.

Disrupt it, stop it, keep it from becoming part of the fabric of the community.

We hope that by shining a light on the issues of drugs and drug addiction (which includes alcohol, by the way), we can educate community members who aren’t aware of the issue as well as those who are facing more personal battles with drugs.

Next week we look at the damage drug addiction causes to those around the addict, before tackling what people can do when they think a loved one is taking drugs, where they can turn and how the system proposes to tackle what appears to be a growing problem.

We’d love to hear from families who are or have struggled with addiction or people who are addicted and don’t know how to stop. We don’t offer any panacea (except not to start) or magic pill … just information and the hope that by sharing some stories, maybe it will make a difference to someone.

Jana Peterson

If you would like to share your story or have suggestions regarding this series, please contact Jana Peterson at the Pine Journal office at 218-879-1950 or via email at