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Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States by size, covering an area of just 1,214 square miles! (Its distances North to South are 48 miles, and East to West 37 miles, respectively.) Rhode Island's miniscule size can be attributed to the fact that it was originally established by 'dissidents' exiled from other colonies in New England.
But though Rhode island may be small, it's faced with a big problem: a rising trend of drug and alcohol addiction.
Rhode Island boasts a relatively comfortable average annual income of $85,527, and thus one might be tempted to think that it had been spared the wave of drug addiction affecting poorer states, but nothing could be further from the truth. In 2010, Rhode Island was one of the top ten states for rates of drug-use among people 12 or older, and among people 18-25. And, in 2009, the rate of drug-induced deaths in Rhode Island was significantly higher than the national average. Despite the state being fairly well-off in terms of resources, substance abuse in Rhode Island gives major cause for concern.
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics, we quickly realize that it's complicated. Drug and alcohol abuse affects the entire country, and no state in the US has been spared, including tiny little Rhode Island. In 2016 the United States had over 60,000 overdoses, (a rate of 175 people dying per day,) and when we examine the numbers, we see that overdoses kill more people annually than suicides, homicides, car accidents or guns. And, although poorer people are statistically more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, correlation is not causation. This doesn't necessarily mean that people that are more well-off economically are less likely to become addicted; in fact sometimes wealthy people are thrown into poverty directly because of addiction. Someone who is solidly middle class can fall into poverty if their addiction leads to poor work performance and job loss. And, if someone has been fired from an old job, it can become a great deal harder to get a new one. It's a vicious downward spiral.
Much like the rest of the United States, prescription painkiller (opioid) addiction has blown across Rhode Island like an unstoppable blizzard, wreaking havoc on communities and burying families. In 2018, Rhode Island reported 267 deaths from drug overdoses (a rate of 25.9!) Opioid addiction is particularly menacing because, due to the highly addictive nature of the drugs, it can sneak up on even the most careful of people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Just as in the rest of the country, the root of the opioid problem in Rhode Island stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive pills when, in many cases, lesser drugs like Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. Opioids may seem safe because a doctor prescribes them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a path to full-on dependency. In 2018, Rhode Island providers wrote 43.0 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people!
Sadly many Rhode Island residents have discovered that abusing prescription painkillers can lead to using even more dangerous substances. Federal and state regulations now try to control and limit the prescribing of opioids, (a valiant effort) but it has had the unintended effect of causing the use of street drugs like heroin (which gives a similar high and is even cheaper to obtain on the street) to skyrocket. In 2018, Rhode Island reported 24 deaths involving heroin (a rate of 2.2.)
And, the danger to substance abusers in Rhode Island doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug addicts often then turn to incredibly dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, (which is far stronger than heroin) and the result is usually a body bag. In 2018, Rhode Island deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (mainly fentanyl and fentanyl analogs) continued a long-term increase to 213 (a rate of 21.0). Initially, most users don't intentionally seek out fentanyl, but unfortunately once a person has been exposed to a higher toxicity of a drug, the brain chemistry is altered further, and users will seek out the most potent form. At the height of addiction, users are wholly unable to calculate the risk and are willing to go to any length to obtain the high. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
A recent study took a look at substance abuse among Rhode Island youth and the numbers give cause for concern.
37% of high school students report they've ever used marijuana (also called grass, pot, or weed) 1 or more times (lifetime.)
4% of high school students report they've used any form of cocaine (for example, powder, crack, or freebase) 1 or more times (lifetime.)
4% of Rhode Island youth (ages 12-17) report using pain relievers in any way not directed by a doctor in the past year.
Although the situation looks bleak by the numbers, the good news for Rhode Island residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. We are more connected now than we have ever been, and Rhode Island has an abundance of resources to fit every need, whether you just want counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or are seeking full-on detox services. The important part is acknowledging the forces holding you back so you can begin the journey towards breaking free of them. This is the first step toward the rest of your life.
Rhode Island State Facts
Rhode Island Population: 1,048,319
Law Enforcement Officers in Rhode Island: 2,818
Rhode Island Prison Population: 3,500
Rhode Island Probation Population: 25,914
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 37
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Rhode Island
Cocaine: 1.6 kgs.
Heroin: 0.1 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 0 kgs.
Marijuana: 18.7 kgs.
Ecstasy: 657 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 0 (DEA, state, and local)
Rhode Island Drug Situation: Cocaine is the primary drug of choice in Rhode Island. High quality cocaine is available in Rhode Island and is generally 60% -90% pure. Cocaine traffickers in Rhode Island also service customers in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire and utilize Rhode Island as a transshipment point for distribution throughout New England.
Cocaine in Rhode Island: Cocaine continues to be readily available throughout Rhode Island. The cocaine is transported from South America through Southwest Border States via commercial airlines and motor vehicles fitted with sophisticated hidden hydraulic compartments. Cocaine is also brought to New England from the Mexican border, hidden within shipments of legitimate goods being transported by tractor-trailer. Much of the cocaine HCl is converted into crack cocaine for sale at the retail level. Cocaine is distributed primarily by Colombian and Dominican traffickers. The majority of the cocaine purchased in Rhode Island is transported in by local suppliers who travel to New York and return to distribute the product.
Heroin in Rhode Island: Heroin is widely available in the Rhode Island area and can be purchased in nearly every town and city. Heroin is available in Rhode Island at very high purity levels. Dominican, Colombian and Puerto Rican traffickers continue to dominate the heroin trafficking market in Rhode Island. The Dominican Traffickers network the most among the various ethnic groups, and as such they control the street level distribution of heroin. Heroin is transported by courier to Providence via airplane, train and automobile for distribution. Heroin is sold at the retail level in bags, bundles, browns and bricks. Kilogram quantities of heroin are rarely seen in Rhode Island.
Methamphetamine in Rhode Island: Methamphetamine is rarely seen in Rhode Island.
Club Drugs in Rhode Island: The state of Rhode Island continues to see an abuse of “club drugs,” such as MDMA and GHB. MDMA is found in various Nightclubs located in Providence, RI and at rave parties throughout the state. Almost all-local Police departments in Rhode Island have reported and increase in Ecstasy, GHB and Ketamine or “K”. The majority of the MDMA seen in Rhode Island comes from Canada, New York and Boston, MA.
Marijuana in Rhode Island: The marijuana trend in Rhode Island supports a widespread and readily available market of fairly large amounts of this drug. Prices of marijuana will vary seasonally as the supply fluctuates. The marijuana available in Rhode Island is mostly Mexican, however it is supplemented by limited amounts of other foreign based and domestic marijuana. The majority of the marijuana is imported from the southwest border via parcel carriers and couriers on commercial airlines. Hydroponically produced marijuana is also available in Rhode Island. A majority of the “hydro” marijuana is transported into Rhode Island via tractor trailers and is sold for $3500 - $5000 per pound. Canada is the major source of supply for this type of marijuana in Rhode Island.
Other Drugs in Rhode Island: The most popular pharmaceutical substance abused in Rhode Island is OxyContin. Much of the diversion is through fraudulent prescriptions, doctor shopping, pharmacy break-ins, and hospital thefts. OxyContin is being sold for approximately $1.00 per milligram.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been two MET deployments in the State of Rhode Island since the inception of the program: Pawtucket and Providence.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Rhode Island.
Other Enforcement Operations in Rhode Island: Drug traffickers operating in Rhode Island exploit every possible avenue to smuggle drugs into Rhode Island. Route 95 links Rhode Island with New York, Bridgeport, and Boston and is essential for the state’s industries and residents as well as drug traffickers and money launderers. More than 5,000 miles of intrastate roads are traveled in Rhode Island. The Providence Resident Office has observed every major highway, airline carrier, postal service and port of entry being exploited in order to infiltrate drugs into the state.
Rhode Island Drug Courts/Treatment Centers: There are currently two drug courts operating in the state of Rhode Island. According to the Rhode Island Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, there are currently 58 drug and alcohol treatment centers operating in the state of Rhode Island.
DEA Special Topics: There are currently two drug treatment courts operating in the state of Rhode Island. According to the Rhode Island Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, there are currently 58 drug and alcohol treatment centers operating in the state of Rhode Island.