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Drug Abuse By State: Vermont

Surprisingly, Vermont has been ranked as the state with the highest rate of illicit drug use – with 15% of people saying they’ve used a substance within the past month. This rate appears staggeringly high when compared to Utah’s 4.2%, which is the lowest-ranking state for illicit drug use. These trends were documented by surveys conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2010-2011.

Vermont Drug Abuse: Factors

According to Barbara Cimaglio, deputy commissioner for alcohol and drug abuse programs at the Vermont Department of Health, this trend is a due to such factors as weather, politics, and proximity to big cities.

“You have everything from the colder climate, which tends to be a reason some people give, to more liberal attitudes, to higher income levels, to people having more access, but I don’t think anyone knows for sure,” Cimaglio told Business Insider.

Vermont Drug Abuse: Trends

Perhaps the main reason that Vermont ranked so high – no pun intended – due to its residents’ use of marijuana, alone. The state ranked highest in the U.S. for marijuana use, with about 13% of people saying they’ve used the drug within the past month.

However, statistics show that Vermont drug abuse doesn’t discriminate when it comes to drug of choice; the state ranked the highest for almost every type of drug, from marijuana to cocaine.

And just like the rest of the country, heroin use is taking off in the Northeastern state. The Burlington Free Press reported in 2011 that prescription drug use has also risen dramatically in Vermont, as it has around the country. Many Vermont heroin addicts started out with prescription painkillers, like oxycodone, Vicodin, and Lortab. When it became difficult or too expensive, addicts turned to heroin – a cheaper version of these pharmaceuticals.

Vermont Drug Abuse: Why Vermont?

Trafficking from out-of-state drug dealers is one main way that has exacerbated Vermont’s drug abuse problem, because the state’s highways dump into big cities.

On this aspect, Cimaglio said, “I think Vermont is really in sort of a perfect storm because we’re on that highway between Montreal, Boston, New York, and also going to Philadelphia. You have to go through Vermont to get to some of the bigger cities like Boston, so it seems like some people are just trafficking along the way and Vermont is one of the stops.”

The street drug is coming from cities like New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Chicago. In fact, copious amounts of heroin are coming into Vermont from big-city dealers who can sell the drug at a higher price there. For example, a bag of heroin might cost $5 in a big city but, dealers can sell it for as much as $30 in Vermont. Despite this hike in price, Vermont is seeing an uptick in heroin use, Cimaglio confirmed.

Vermont Drug Abuse: Crime

As is suspected with issues of drug abuse and addiction, drug-related crime is on the rise in Vermont, too. Cimaglio stated that, within the last year or so, she’s heard more stories of burglaries related to drug trafficking and more stories about people being arrested in Vermont who aren’t from the state.

Vermont Drug Abuse: Plan of Attack

Vermont is taking a proactive approach to the increasingly problematic issues surrounding Vermont drug abuse trends.

“We’ve enhanced our treatment services greatly, and also law enforcement,” Cimaglio said. “We’re addressing it on all fronts.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.


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