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OxyContin maker pleads guilty to federal charges; Rochester psychologist talks about opioid addiction recovery process

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- On Wednesday, Purdue Pharma, the creator of the opioid OxyContin reached a multi-billion dollar settlement with the federal government.

Purdue pleaded guilty to three federal charges related to its role in the nation's opioid addiction crisis. The company will be dissolved, but its assets will be used to create a new company controlled by the government.

Companies like Purdue Pharma have encouraged doctors to prescribe opioids to patients, which prosecutors say lead to deadly addictions.

Data from The Minnesota Department of Health shows that in 2019 there 800 more non-fatal opioid overdoses than in 2018. However, the most recent statistics show a drop of 79 deaths from 2018 to 2017.

Dr. Brandy Brown, a clinical psychologist for Blue Stem Center for Adult and Child Development, understands the role drug companies play in the addiction crisis but also sees the benefits drugs can have.

"These are some of the same companies that make wonderful mental health medications that I do see great benefit for my clients, but these are the same companies that are on the edge of these opioid medications," Brown said. "I have clients that are in physical pain and medications and opioids are not their addictions."

The settlement money will go toward opioid treatment and abatement programs.

Brown said one key aspect to recovery is understanding how the addiction began.

"You can't just treat the addiction piece. We also have to treat the mental health, the underlying conditions that might have led to, or continue to feed their desires to use or to be addicted to the opioids."

Brown focuses on mental health with her patients and works side by side with addiction programs that her clients may be apart of.

"A lot of these individuals have been beaten down themselves, by the system, or by their peers for so long that just even they belief or idea that they can get sober, it just isn't there for a lot of theses individuals and so [we're] doing a lot of work in installing hope," she said.

Brown said those experiencing any addiction should know they can receive help to end it.

"There's specific programs that are designed specifically now for opioid addictions and they show great, great results. It's a hard road to walk, but just know that you don't have to walk it alone," she said.

Minnesota's Attorney General, Keith Ellison joined other attorneys general in signing a petition to the United States Attorney General's office, asking that Purdue Pharma be owned by a private company instead of by the government.

The state attorneys general believe the government should be enforcing the law against selling opioids.

Related stories: Opioid crisis worsens amid the coronavirus pandemic

KaMaria Braye

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