Duluth is plagued by a deadly disease, and it’s spreading faster than we’ve been able to contain it. It’s the disease of drug addiction and the crime that accompanies it.

Drug addiction has shaken our community to the core. I think many people thought that once the Last Place on Earth was closed down, drugs would be gone from our city. It’s that kind of head-in-the-sand mentality that continues to drag down Duluth.

I have seen first-hand what drugs do to people. My business partner, Zach Walters, and I see the evidence of drugs every day as we try to go about our business working downtown with youth. Zach and I are all too familiar with the perils and pitfalls of drugs. That is why we both choose to live our lives substance free and teach that to the kids we work with at the gym.
But what about the people we don’t work with?

Shutting down one problem business didn’t eradicate the problem, but I knew it wouldn’t. However, now that the supply is gone, isn’t it fairly obvious that the users aren’t just going to go cold turkey? After the synthetic substances were removed from the equation, we were left with a large group of people who were addicted and needed a replacement.

In comes the heroin.

Heroin Needle in the StreetDuluth has found itself to be a stop on a major heroin highway. Dealers are coming up from cities like Chicago and Detroit, targeting our youth and peddling their poison. They are hitting all communities and Native Reservations, regardless of social status. Their products are not as affordable as the synthetic crap that is gone. But where there is a will there’s a way. And with drug abuse, the will is strong as steel.

Year after year Duluth has seen drastic increases in calls for police help. In fact, the website Neighborhood Scout puts your chance of becoming a victim of a property crime in our city at one in twenty. Property crimes include burglary, larceny over fifty dollars, motor vehicle theft, and arson– the very types of crimes people commit to get money for drugs.

It’s time to start helping these people to break the cycle. Stop the crime and stop the drugs. They deserve a chance to kick their habits, and I’m ready to help them. I am ready to help them change their lives and begin healing.

Last year a beautiful young woman had dreams and plans for herself and her baby. She had a good family, support, and love. When drugs invaded her life, she fought as hard as she could, sending herself to a popular rehabilitation facility. And she kicked the drugs. She got sober.
But then she came back to Duluth.

It didn’t take long for dealers to find her. In fact, they even went to her father’s house and picked her up. How helpful. What she probably didn’t realize, like many other users who stop for a period of time, is that she lost her tolerance. A smaller dose than she was used to was all it took to end her life. No more plans. No more dreams.

Overdose situations like this don’t just happen to people who have quit and relapsed. The problem with powdered drugs is that no one can be positive what’s in them. It could be laced with a filler substance to stretch the dealer’s supply. Or it could be purer than what someone’s used to and lead to an overdose. No one can be sure when they’re using.

This could be what leads many people to use ill-gotten prescription drugs. These pills have become easy to come by without a prescription or medical supervision to people with substance addiction issues. And the rate at which children are getting their hands on these pills is absolutely alarming.

Frequently users or kids don’t need to look any further than their parents’, grandparents’, or even neighbors’ medicine cabinet. Add in the peer pressure that is very common amongst kids, and now we have a highly contagious epidemic.

We need to reevaluate where our money is going in this city. We cannot continue to spend on unnecessary wants at the expense of things that are desperately needed for the whole community. It’s time that the needs of the many start taking precedence over the desires of the few.

Things that should be important to a strong and vibrant community are things like safety and a healthy population. You cannot have rampant crime and a stream of endless addiction and expect our city to thrive. It’s time to take steps to correct these problems.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, everyone knows someone whose life has been touched by drug addiction. Maybe the person you know tries to keep it under wraps instead of wearing it on his sleeve, but I can guarantee that everyone in this town knows of someone with an addiction problem.

This is my hometown and I love living here. But we need to make some changes if we are going to have a strong community. Directly or not, drugs and crime have touched your life. Enough is enough. It’s time to stop this cycle.

And I am the man to do it.