‘Either Addicted, or in Prison Because of Their Addiction’

Photo by bradadozier

Heroin use and related overdoses have been increasing in nearly every demographic group in the U.S., a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report posted earlier this month shows. In obituaries, “a growing number of families are dropping the euphemisms,” instead describing the painful realities of addiction. David Amsden’s April 2014 Rolling Stone story, “The New Face of Heroin,” examined the drug’s connection with pharmaceutical painkillers, and its spread into Vermont and other seemingly unlikely parts of the country:

The portrait of the governor’s native state that emerged was severe, conjuring up images more commonly associated with blighted inner cities than a state with the nation’s fifth-lowest unemployment rate and a populace that is 95 percent white. Since 2000, Shumlin noted, Vermont has seen an eightfold increase in those seeking treatment for opiate use, with an almost 40 percent spike in the past year for heroin alone, and every day hundreds are languishing on waiting lists for understaffed clinics. Deaths from overdoses in 2013 had nearly doubled from 2012; property crimes and home invasions were on the rise; and close to 80 percent of the state’s inmates “are either addicted or in prison because of their addiction.” The same major highways where tourists routinely pull over to take photos of rustic vistas had, in the governor’s description, become pipelines of heroin distribution, with organized gangs setting up outposts across the state, where a six-dollar bag of heroin in their home cities can fetch as much as $30. As a result, an estimated $2 million worth of opiates were now being trafficked into Vermont each week – a staggering amount for a state that, with only 626,000 residents, is the second-least-populated in the country, after Wyoming.

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