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The drug problem here affects everyone

All you have to do is read the Pine Journal to see that we have a drug problem in Carlton County, and how the effects of drug addiction ripple out from the addict into society.

In this week’s paper, we have stories about a person, charged with possession of meth, who drove at a high rate of speed through Cloquet until so many cops were chasing him that he finally pulled over. In another crime story this week, a man faces felony domestic assault charges after allegedly coming home drunk, getting in an argument with the mother of his children and allegedly trying to strangle her. Those are just two of many stories that will make the news this year.

Think you don’t know “those kind of people”?

It’s awfully easy to assume that drug addiction will always be someone else’s problem, but it could be yours in moments. Maybe you or your loved one are hurt by someone driving drunk or high. Or perhaps your child says a thoughtless “yes” to a friend at a party, and their life (and yours) comes crashing down.

Look at the court reports published each week in the paper and see how many cases relate directly to drugs or alcohol. Then understand that most of the robberies, burglaries, vehicular homicides and crimes of violence happen because someone is drunk or high, or because they don’t have any money and their addiction is calling.

If we covered every felony drug charge in Carlton County, there wouldn’t be room for any other news in the Pine Journal. As it is, we try to cover first-, second- and sometimes third-degree felony drug charges, because those are the most serious.

As one of our loyal readers so aptly said, after the Pine Journal’s five-part series on the drug problem in Carlton County two years ago: “No one wakes up in the morning as an adolescent kid and says: ‘Hey, I think I’m gonna be an addict and break the hearts of everyone I love.’”

It’s been two years since we published that series and, frankly, drug use and abuse doesn’t seem to be declining.

It’s not just young people we need to worry about. A lot of people are struggling with drug (and/or alcohol) addiction. They are all ages and come from every social class, from the super rich to the very poor. They have families, parents, children, co-workers, friends and neighbors … and everyone is affected, even those who don’t know them personally.

So please, take a couple hours out of your day Monday evening to attend the community forum at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet. Listen in as young adults share their personal stories of substance abuse and how recreational drug use evolved into addiction. Hear from community leaders, law enforcement and health professionals as they discuss current local drug trends, root causes of addiction and means of intervention.

A free dinner with success stories starts at 5 p.m., the general session on heroin and opioid abuse starts at 6, and there will be breakout sessions from 7:20 to 8 p.m. (Find more details in the IN THE NEWS column on Page A2.)

Teenagers are also invited to attend Monday’s meeting because they’re often on the front lines of drug abuse and addiction, whether it’s friends or family or some random person they meet at a party or in class.

“I think [involving the community] is the only solution,” said task force member Laura Palombi. “Because it’s not just a law enforcement issue. It’s not just a public health issue. It’s everybody’s issue.”

Carlton County is not alone in our battle against the demons of drugs and alcohol addiction. Drugs are everywhere: in big cities, small towns and in the countryside.

If we all work together — to break the stigma of addiction so people get treatment, to advocate for more treatment options, to help law enforcement disrupt the sale of drugs, to stop that friend or family member from driving while under the influence  — maybe we will make a difference.

See you Monday?

~ Jana Peterson