Surgeon General highlights need for opioid addiction treatment

The U.S. Surgeon General visited the Twin Cities to meet with people who have battled opioid addictions.

Among them is Mike Heuerman, a guy who seemed to have it all. He was a star football player at Notre Dame, but injuries took it all away.

“After my junior year, I had three hip surgeries and two core surgeries,” said Heuerman. “Over the course of the next three years, I went into a very dark place and became heavily dependent and addicted to opiates.”

Eighteen months ago, his addiction led him to the Hazelden-Betty Ford Foundation. He’s never looked back.

“And since then it’s changed my life and saved my life and given me my life back,” said Heuerman. 

For far too many, it’s taken their life. The Minnesota Department of Health reports 422 deaths for opioid overdoses in 2017. That’s a seven percent increase from the year before. Public health officials know they can’t begin reducing those numbers until they create better treatment programs and better access. That’s exactly why Surgeon General Jerome Adams met with those in recovery at Hazelden.

“The more that we can understand the different pathways people take to substance abuse disorder, the more we can tailor programs so that folks can recover,” said Adams.  

Between inpatient and outpatient care, Hazelden treated well over a thousand people in Minnesota last year for opioid use disorder.

The Hazelden-Betty Ford Foundation says about 30 percent of the patients admitted to its residential treatment programs last year had opioid use disorder. Alcohol is still the number one substance abuse issue with their patients. Marijuana is next, then followed by opioid use.

Foundation officials say the number people seeking opioid treatment has been fairly consistent in recent years, but it’s still three to four times higher than it was 10 to 20 years ago.