OxyContin use down in Vt. but heroin use increasesBy DAVE GRAM
The Associated Press | November 24,2012Staff file photo
Detective Sgt. Kevin Stevens inspects bags of heroin seized by Rutland police during a drug bust earlier this year.WATERBURY — Efforts to make OxyContin harder to abuse have succeeded in Vermont, the top state police drug investigator says, but one notable result has been addicts switching to an older scourge: heroin.
Lt. Matt Birmingham, head of the Vermont Drug Task Force, likened the situation to Whac-a-Mole. Once one problem is addressed, another surfaces.
Statistics provide another glimpse of Vermont’s growing heroin problems. Deaths attributed in whole or in part to heroin overdose averaged less than 2.5 per year from 2004 to 2010. There were nine in 2011 and six so far this year, according to figures provided by the state Health Department from the state medical examiner’s office.
Investigators, drug counselors and others combating drug abuse were elated two years ago when OxyContin’s manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, reformulated the drug, Birmingham said in an interview. “Thank God,” he said.
OxyContin was designed for use in cancer patients and others suffering serious pain. It was to be taken every 12 hours, with the pill designed to release oxycodone into the body gradually. Addicts were chewing the pills or grinding and snorting them for an instant high. The new formula turns the pills into a gummy mass when they’re ground up, making them much less appealing to addicts.
But in the past two years, heroin has come to the fore in Vermont, with use spreading into some high schools.
“Unfortunately, the younger kids think they can start by snorting heroin,” a method that avoids the stigma and fear surrounding possibly dirty needles, Birmingham said. “You can get addicted all the same,” he said adding that young people “generally end up injecting once they get a full-blown addiction.”
In addition to spreading to a younger group of users, heroin is circulating more widely in Vermont’s rural areas. In the rural southeastern Vermont town of Chester, police raided an apartment in early October and arrested nine people. They also seized $18,000 in cash, heroin with a street value of $20,000, crack cocaine worth $6,200 and OxyContin pills valued at $4,000.
Birmingham said drug distribution networks in the state appeared to have become better organized than they were a decade ago. In the past, people would come into Vermont with a shipment of drugs and set up shop in an addict’s house to sell them until the supply ran out.
“Now we’re seeing kind of organized networks within the state that some of the dealers can stay in New York City or Albany and wherever the source areas are and just sort of keep the flow going to the established networks in Vermont. So that concerns us greatly,” he said.
The response must combine law enforcement, education and treatment for addicts, Birmingham said.
“Law enforcement realized very quickly that we cannot solve this problem at all by arresting our way out of it. It’s just not going to happen,” he said. “As long as there is a demand here for heroin and opiate products, the supply will just keep coming. And you’re just not going to stop it unless you build a 20-foot fence around the state.”MORE IN Vermont NewsThe leader of the Vermont Workers’ Center is taking his fight for higher wages and affordable... Full StoryMONTPELIER — A man seen manning big fishing rods and harpooning huge fish on the reality show... Full Story
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day 1739, 'Richard Palmer' identified in prison at York Castle as the notorious outlaw DICK TURPIN; IN 1836, Battle of the Alamo begins near San Antonio de Bexar, Texas; 1896, the Tootsie Roll invented by LEO HIRSCHFELD.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1472, Orkney, Shetland islands put up as collateral by Norway to Scotland in lieu of dowry for MARGARET OF DENMARK on her marriage with JAMES III, king of Scotland; 1962, JOHN GLENN first American to orbit Earth.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: City mayoral candidates debate campaign issues; Hartford, Conn., woman still missing; Neal Goswami reports attempts to legislate suicide; local woman loses 100 pounds through TOPS program.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1878, JOHN TUNSTALL murdered near Lincoln, New Mexico, by the outlaw JESSE EVANS; in 1930, ELM FARM OLLIE first cow to fly in aircraft, first to be milked airborne; 1955, nuke test WASP; '79, snow in Sahara.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Rutland Herald News Editor Alan J. Keays and staff writer Gordon Dritschilo discuss stories planned for the February 18, 2015, edition of the newspaper: Winter budgets maxed, legal marijuana, Springfield bank job, USPS slowdown
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1249 AD, ANDRE of LONGJUMEAU is dispatched by LOUIS IX of France to meet the KHAGAN, ruler of the Mongol Empire; in 1804, during 1st Barbary War, STEPHEN DECATUR scuttles the pirate-held USS Philadelphia in Tripoli.