Understanding and combating the U.P.’s drug problem

Understanding and combating the U.P.’s drug problem

MARQUETTE — The misuse of opiate pain killers and prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing substance abuse problem in the country.

Federal, state, and local agencies had the opportunity to discuss drug related topics, including drug issues in the Upper Peninsula during the Meth and Opioid Drug Education Summit sponsored by Senator Carl Levin.

In the U.P., drug trafficking, meth, and prescription drug addition are the three main issues police face.

“Typically on Forest Service Lands, we’ll see people in the campgrounds making meth, using meth, selling meth, and then they’ll dump the refuse from the labs on Forest Service lands because they want to be in remote areas,” U.S. Forest Service special agent Mike Evans said.

“Certainly the trafficking of drugs in the Upper Peninsula is an issue,” DEA special agent Richard Isaacson said. “It’s more of a destination city here in Marquette. Sometimes you don’t get the largest drug seizures, but there is a very vibrant drug trade in the Upper Peninsula.”

“There’s a lot of different agencies here and law enforcement officers that aren’t well versed in that happening (drug trafficking)…maybe don’t even know that it happened, or what to look for when they see that type of thing or what to do if they see that, so we do a lot of stuff to inform and educate our partners, but also the public so that they know what to do if they come across something like that and who to call,” Evans said.

Another problem law enforcement agencies are seeing is the rise in heroin addiction by prescription drug abusers.

“Those pills are so expensive on the street that people switch over to heroin because they can buy heroin much cheaper,” Isaacson said, “and so what we do is we pretty aggressive enforcement operation, working with the state and local law enforcement. But we also know that education, drug prevention, drug treatment, we all need to work together. All those disciplines need to work together to fight this addiction problem.”

Marquette County has even seen victims of sexual assault become addicted to drugs and alcohol.

“It takes a piece of power and control away from an individual, that they usually try to find another way of having control over their life,” The Women’s Center sexual assault advocate Kelly Laakso said. “Turning to substances for coping measures to quell the anxiety is just one of those ways of self destructing.”

Education is key to curbing the addiction problem.

“It really is a comprehensive approach that’s going to get us some success,” Evans said, “whether it be prescription drugs or methamphetamine, or whatever it might be.”

“There is a lot of resources in (the) Marquette community,” Laakso said. “This is a wonderful community for pulling together for victims and survivors. Always reach out and never stop looking to heal from what it is you need to (heal from).”