University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy faculty fight addict - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy faculty fight addiction through education

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DULUTH, MN -

Here, in the Northland, the opioid crisis came on fast and hit hard.

If you take a look at the map below from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, on the left you see the number of heroin treatment admissions by county across the state in 2007. 

Those numbers are dramatically different in the second map to the right, which shows treatment admissions for 2016.

We're seeing higher numbers across the state, but especially in the Northland, which is home to some of the darker counties on the map.

At the University of Minnesota School of Pharmacy, tackling opioid addiction in the community starts in the classroom, a big change from Assistant Professor Laura Palombi's education as she entered the field.

"For a long time we educated that pain was a vital sign and that we needed to make sure that everybody was treated with pain more than adequately and we didn't realize the potential that existed with opioids for addiction," she said.

Now, alongside fellow professor Heather Blue, Palombi's research has turned towards substance abuse prevention, and ways medical providers can better serve the community.

"By learning more about what the current pharmacy climate is, we're going to be better able to make some changes and give pharmacists what they really want and need," she said.

Blue and Palombi are looking into how pharmacists across the state are distributing naloxone, and other risk management tools. They're even helping organize a few trainings on using naloxone as a first response to overdoses.

"Press, and a fine mist of the medication is released," Blue said, demonstrating the nasal spray.

Discussions with peers aside, Palombi said some of the most eye-opening findings have come from listening to people recovering from addiction.

"We've heard some really great ideas on how we can immediately be more supportive as a community and what sort of barriers people are having," she said.

She said hearing many say their addiction began with prescription medications reinforces the urgency behind her research.

""It's not just a health care problem," Palombi said. "It's not just a public health problem. It's not just a law enforcement issue. It's really a problem that's so complex and complicated that it requires everybody's help."

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