Vermont Heroin Capital of America
Vermont is facing a horrific heroin epidemic. As a result, the federal government is looking to stop this trend. With the highest rate of illicit drug use among teens between the ages of 12 and 17 in the nation at over 15.45 percent (five percent above the national average), and seeing how Vermont has seen a 250 percent increase in people seeking heroin addiction treatment since 2000, it is clear that a crisis is afoot, and needs to be addressed immediately.
Why Vermont? What is causing such a huge epidemic like this in such a small state that has no major metropolis? While Vermont may be more “isolated,” it may actually be that very isolationist nature that is at the root of the problem.
Vermont sits between four major metropolises: Montreal, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Each of these cities is facing a heroin crisis of its own, but because of the large size of each city, they also attract a huge number of dealers, causing heroin prices to be low, and the profit to dealers low as well. In addition, the increased pursuit of heroin dealers and traffickers by law enforcement agencies has made it more costly and dangerous to operate in these large cities.
While it does not have the population density of other larger cities, Vermont has a population that is fairly affluent. Generally, police departments are not as well equipped in how to detect and stop operations of drug traffickers. Drug dealers are able to sell heroin at higher prices due to decreased possibility of police harassment, making Vermont a goldmine for drug traffickers.
In addition, many college students leave the state to attend school in other areas where heroin is becoming a big problem. They try the drug and become addicted. When they return home from college, they return with more than just a degree: they become the primary “customers” of heroin dealers in the state of Vermont, which is becoming the heroin capital of America.
It is for these reasons that the federal government has seen the need to pour money into Vermont to stop the flow of this increase. The grant money will focus primarily on expanding drug treatment programs for young adults who are considered “at risk” for drug and alcohol abuse. Included as part of the programs will be screening, referrals, intervention and treatment as part of regular health care services offered to those who are 18 and older. The overall goal is to make substance abuse screening a routine part of health care examinations, much in the same way that doctors check blood pressure and white blood cell counts.
The goal for Vermont is to reach 90,000 people by the year 2018, and to be able to treat these young adults before they become addicted to heroin and other hard drugs. The hope is that by taking early action, heroin use can be curbed before it becomes an addiction.
The purpose of the program changes direction from most federal programs which support law enforcement as the primary method to stop drug use. Instead, the drug treatment program focuses its attention on aiding the potential heroin user. This new theory in dealing with drug addiction will be tested in Vermont, as well as four other states.
Editorial by Robert Pannier