Substance Abuse in Vermont

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According to an article on wcax.com, “more Vermonters died from opiate overdoses last year [2011] than murders and traffic fatalities combined.” Some opiates have medically valid uses, while others are recreational drugs of abuse. All are physically addictive, and it has become evident that many people have begun to abuse them. Pharmaceutical drugs have taken over the minds of many Vermonters.

I do believe that Vermont is facing a severe epidemic when it comes to opiate addiction. According to Governor Peter Shumlin, “We're spending roughly $134 million of taxpayer dollars a year to incarcerate drug- and alcohol-addicted people.” The amount of money spent on addicted people is astonishing. This dollar amount could be greatly reduced if proper treatment programs we put into place. Opiates can alter the way the brain functions. Once such drug, hydrocodone, has become popular because it is easy to get a prescription for.

Hydrocodone that is combined with acetaminophen is known as vicodin. Use of this drug has been increasing over the past decade as an estimated 7 million dosage units were diverted by the DEA in 1994 and in 1997 over 11 million. Over 56 million new prescriptions were written for hydrocodone products and by 2000 over 89 million were written. The average consumption nationwide has increased 300% from 1990 on. There has been a 500% increase in the number of Emergency Department visits that are contributed to hydrocodone abuse. In 2000, the estimated visits were 19,221. The DEA laboratory system seized and analyzed over 1.3 million hydrocodone tablets in 1997. Since hydrocodone is considered to be morphine like in every aspect, it is easy to see why one may choose to use and abuse this substance. For the hydrocodone abuser, the quickest way to feel the effects of vicodin is to snort it. The way that vicodin acts on the brain can cause it's user to experience feelings of euphoria. Snorting vicodin speeds up the usual effects, and brings on a more intense high. Snorting a drug versus taking it orally can be dangerous. When taken by inhaling vicodin into the nose, vicodin can end up being taken in higher amounts than would normally enter the blood. This could potentially cause an overdose. Although this drug is easy to get by prescription and it is perceived to be safe, but it is highly addictive and one may even develop a tolerance to the drug, thus promoting a higher dosage needed to achieve the desired effect.

The OxyContin Express is happening in Vermont too. Fortunately, it was only a matter of time before the person(s) responsible were apprehended. A Florida woman who sent dozens of Federal Express packages containing hundreds of oxycodone pills to a South Burlington man in 2010 and 2011 was sentenced to 27 months in prison on drug conspiracy charges in September 2012. A Florida woman obtained prescriptions for pills from 12 Florida doctors and was purchasing the pills from eight Florida pharmacies. The South Burlington, Vermont man paid via western union. The state has prescription monitoring systems in place, but it does not extend beyond the state level. If it is filled in one state, then the record stays in that state. It may be beneficial to develop a larger prescription monitoring system. On the other hand, if an addict wants a drug, he will find a way to get it. Another opiate that has shown wide usage in Vermont is a drug that was meant to be for people who are in recovery for substance abuse. Suboxone, more commonly known on the streets as “bupe,” has the potential to be abused. It (suboxone) could be looked at as a drug replacement for whichever addiction the individual was addicted to before starting suboxone therapy. In 2010, Vermont led the nation in per-capita consumption of buprenorphine. According to an article on 7dvt.com, “When an addict starts taking Suboxone, he or she becomes dependent on the buprenorphine and will experience withdrawal symptoms if the drug is...
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