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Vermont - officially known as "The Green Mountain State" - is known for its maple syrup, its maple sugar, excellent skiing, and especially, the independent spirit of its residents. Vermonters earned the reputation throughout history by repeatedly fighting off claims to their territory by neighboring states, and the tradition of independence carries on to the present day. Vermonters tend to prize every person's right to be free thinkers, valuing individualism above all else. But despite their stalwart spirit and moxy, Vermonters haven't been able to escape the scourge of drug and alcohol addiction plaguing the US.
Vermont boasts a relatively comfortable average annual income of $78,472 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. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2009-2010, Vermont was one of the top ten states for rates of drug-use in several categories: past- month illicit drug use among persons age 12 or older, among adults age 18-25, and illicit drug dependence among young adults age 18-25. Despite the state being fairly well-off in terms of resources, substance abuse in Vermont gives major cause for concern.
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics in Vermont, 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 Vermont. 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 (like many in Vermont) 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 mercilessly through Vermont, wreaking havoc on communities and ripping apart whole families. In 2018, Vermont drug overdose deaths involving opioids totaled 127 (a rate of 22.8) and have remained steady since 2016. 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 Vermont 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, Vermont providers wrote 42.4 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people!
Sadly many Vermont 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 is cheaper to obtain on the streets and gives a similar high) to skyrocket. Heroin-involved deaths are on the rise in Vermont, with 68 deaths (a rate of 12.5) in 2018. And, the danger to substance abusers in Vermont 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. 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 as a whole, 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 youth in Vermont, and the numbers give cause for concern.
4% of high school students report they used any form of cocaine (for example, powder, crack, or freebase) 1 or more times (lifetime.)
3% report they've used pain relievers in any way not directed by a doctor in the past year.
Although the drug and alcohol abuse situation looks bleak by the numbers, the good news for Vermont residents struggling with addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. We are more connected now than we have ever been, and The Green Mountain State 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.
Vermont State Facts
Vermont Population: 608,822
Law Enforcement Officers in Vermont: 1,320
Vermont Prison Population: 1,400
Vermont Probation Population: 9,266
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 35
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Vermont
Cocaine: 0.4 kgs.
Heroin: 0.0 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 0.0 kgs.
Marijuana: 874.2 kgs.
Ecstasy: 3,902 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 1 (DEA, state, and local)
Vermont Drug Situation: Marijuana, domestic and imported, is the most widely abused drug in the State of Vermont. High-purity level heroin is available throughout the state. Cocaine is a significant problem throughout the state, particularly in the urban areas. Law enforcement officials report minimal availability of methamphetamine. Vermont’s two interstate highways, I-89 and I-91, terminate at the U.S./Canada border, providing drug traffickers easy access to metropolitan areas in Canada and the United States.
Cocaine in Vermont: Cocaine is readily available throughout Vermont and is widely abused by illicit drug users. The drug is available in all quantities from fractional ounces to kilogram quantities. Cocaine traffickers in Vermont, most often Caucasians, obtain the drug from source areas in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. The cocaine is brought into the state mostly through the use of passenger vehicles; often it is then distributed in bars. Crack cocaine is not widely available in the state, although there is limited availability in the areas of Burlington, Rutland and Barre. Crack is most often distributed by African-American violators who obtain the drug in New York and Massachusetts.
Heroin in Vermont: There is widespread availability of heroin in the state in street/user level quantities. The purity level in the state is quite high, ranging from 55 to 60 percent. A typical heroin distributor in Vermont is a heroin user who distributes the drug in order to support his/her heroin addiction. Heroin is obtained by individuals who travel to source areas in Massachusetts and New York. The most common method of transport of heroin between Vermont and source areas is the use of automobiles.
Methamphetamine in Vermont: There is not a significant methamphetamine problem in Vermont. No clandestine methamphetamine laboratories have been seized in Vermont for the past several years; the last one was seized in 1990.
Club Drugs in Vermont: MDMA (Ecstasy) appears to be widely available in Vermont, particularly the Burlington area. Until June 2001, MDMA possession was not a crime under Vermont state statutes. Several thousand-tablet seizures of MDMA have been made at ports of entry in Vermont. The seized MDMA, often from Toronto, Canada or Montreal, Canada was destined to other states in New England. There have not been any reports of widespread availability of other club drugs such as GHB and ketamine. In December 2003, a clandestine MDMA laboratory was seized in Castleton, VT. This was the first clandestine laboratory seized in the state since 1990.
Marijuana in Vermont: Marijuana is readily available in all areas of Vermont, and it is the drug of choice for illicit drug users.
Marijuana is brought into Vermont from the Southwestern U.S. through the use of automobiles, campers and tractor-trailers. Another significant source area for marijuana in the state is Canada. Canadian-based drug trafficking organizations smuggle high quality hydroponically grown marijuana from Canada across the U.S./Canada border for distribution in Vermont and in transit to Massachusetts, New York and other states. The marijuana often is carried in backpacks across remote areas between the ports of entry; tractor-trailers containing marijuana loads also transport the drug across the U.S./Canada border.
In addition to marijuana transported to Vermont, marijuana continues to be grown within the state. In the past, local growers maintained large-scale outdoor cultivation operations. However, the current trend of local marijuana cultivation has changed to small outdoor plots which can be difficult to detect. Also, indoor grows, to include hydroponic systems, are maintained on a small scale.
Other Drugs in Vermont: Vicodin, Fentanyl, oxycodone, Hydrocodone, methadone, Ritalin, Xanax and Diazepam are the most commonly diverted pharmaceutical drugs in Vermont. Impaired praticioners are a concern in the state.
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 no MET deployments in the State of Vermont.
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 Vermont.
DEA Special Topics: U.S./Canada Border: Vermont shares approximately 95 miles of border with Canada. The cross-border terrain is remote with no large cities and few inhabitants providing an ideal situation for cross-border illicit activities. Several large-scale international investigations have stemmed from seizures of MDMA and hydroponically grown marijuana. Following the events of September 11, 2001, border law enforcement activity has increased which has led to an increase in drug and money seizures.
Drug Treatment Centers in Vermont: The Vermont Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP) contracts with 18 nonprofit agencies which provide alcohol and drug treatment services. According to ADAP, the use of hallucinogens (including marijuana) accounted for 16 percent of treatment admissions, opiates (including heroin) seven percent of treatment admissions and stimulants (including cocaine) for four percent of treatment admissions in Vermont fiscal year 2000 (July 1, 1999 - June 30, 2000). Twelve persons reportedly were treated for methamphetamine abuse during Vermont fiscal year 2000.