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In mobilizing against the opioid epidemic, we can’t forget about prevention

Substance misuse often starts by taking a family member’s leftover painkiller from the medicine cabinet. Co-dispensing a disposal method at the time of prescription can be a powerful tool.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021 was the deadliest year on record for drug overdoses in U.S. history. The agency estimates that nearly 108,000 people died of overdoses in 2021, including more than 1,300 Minnesotans. At the same time, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, there were 14 nonfatal overdoses for every fatal overdose in 2020, and we’re anxiously awaiting 2021 numbers.

Government and community leaders are doing great work to stop drug trafficking, expand access to treatment, and make tools like Narcan and fentanyl testing strips more available. But there has been too little focus on one key factor: preventing drug misuse before it even starts.