Officials Look For Better Ways To Treat Substance Abuse

Posted at: 11/09/2012 12:33 PM
Updated at: 11/09/2012 4:01 PM
By: Laurie Stribling

A meeting in Duluth brought area leaders and professionals together to brainstorm ways to battle substance abuse in the Northland. It's part of a statewide effort to combat the problem and two State Commissioners were at the meeting.

The meeting in Duluth was held at the Public Safety Building where a panel of health and court officials, law enforcement officers and treatment providers led a discussion. Gary Olson, CEO of the Duluth Detox Center, said working together with other agencies is important.

"Addiction is not just a medical problem," Olson said. "It's a social problem. It's a criminal justice problem. It's a public safety problem."

A variety of topics surfaced during the discussion: including synthetic drugs, alcohol and methadone. Methadone has gained negative attention in recent months following an alleged methadone-related, fatal crash back in October on Highway 210.

While methadone can be abused, Olson said it has major benefits.

"The scientific evidence for methadone is overwhelming," Olson said. "It's helps a lot of people, and has helped a lot of people, but it also has the potential for abuse."

Cathleen Cerra is the Former Director at the Lake Superior Treatment Center in Duluth. It's the only methadone treatment facility in the area. She agreed that methadone can help with addiction, but she said regulations need to change.

"The regulations, as it is currently, in the dispensing of methadone need to be addressed seriously," Cerra said. "One of the things, that I see, that would be a favorable outcome would be that no patient be able to take methadone off the premises. I think there's too high risk for abuse."

This meeting was one step in a longer process to solving some of these issues. Meeting were also held in Rochester and Duluth this month.