1) Vermont is the drug capital of the USA.
Picturesque, rural Vermont has the highest rate of illegal drug use in the entire USA.
While this pastoral New England state has historically been synonymous with maple syrup, skiing, and idyllic countryside, Vermont now has a far more unsavoury reputation as the “new face of heroin.” Vermont ranks highly in all categories of illicit drug abuse—including methamphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, crack, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants—as well as alcohol and prescription drug abuse.
Since the year 2000 the number of people seeking treatment for heroin addiction in Vermont has increased by a staggering 770%, and heroin-related deaths have almost doubled in the past two years.
What’s behind Vermont’s drug problem? The colder climate has been blamed in the past—but so have liberal attitudes, higher disposable incomes, and easy access to drugs within the state. Vermont’s location is also a contributing factor, as its proximity to several big cities has led to an influx in drug trafficking from other states.
Whatever the real cause may be, all that is known is something must change. Priding yourself on a liberal outlook is all peaches and cream until you get lampooned for being the literal face of heroin. No one is saying this problem won’t be easy and that steps haven’t been taken to curb the onslaught of abuse.
However, it seems as though these issues are consistently on the rise and something big must be done.
2) Marijuana use is most prevalent in New England.
Despite recreational marijuana being legal in Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, and Washington state marijuana use is significantly more widespread in New England as this state heat map shows. Leading the way for pot use is (now unsurprisingly) Vermont, with nearly 47% of 18–25 year olds admitting to using marijuana.
Rhode Island was the second highest-ranking state for pot use, followed closely by Massachusetts. With New Hampshire and Maine also reporting very high rates of marijuana consumption, it seems there is no doubt marijuana is most appealing to this region.
New England is more liberal than many other parts of the US, and many inhabitants consider marijuana an innocuous drug that has little risk. In July 2013, New Hampshire became the last state in New England to legalize medical marijuana, so a more relaxed stance on this drug has existed for quite a while. The recent legalization in Washington and Colorado may have contributed to marijuana becoming more socially acceptable too, and Rhode Island is slated to be the next state to legalize recreational marijuana use.
Much has already been said regarding the nation’s consciousness surrounding how marijuana is perceived in society. There is simply no denying how all this surrounding legalization effects an area as a whole. If you are told that a dangerous substance that is featured in numerous songs, videos, and movies should be legal and that it’s no big deal, then what are you going to do? Especially when it comes to young, impressionable minds. Perhaps the glamorization of legalizing marijuana needs to lose a twinkle or two.
3) The pain reliever epidemic is out of control—everywhere.
The fact that the United States has a problem with prescription drug abuse won’t surprise many—but the extent of the problem might.
The number of American deaths as a result of taking too many prescription pain relief drugs quadrupled between 1999 and 2010—an escalation that highlights the stark severity of the issue. Pain relief fatalities now outnumber deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. The only drug that is more widespread in the USA is marijuana.
So how did this country get so addicted to pain relief drugs in just a couple of decades? In the late 1990’s, the medical industry focused on finding better ways to treat pain, and Congress dubbed the succeeding decade the “decade of pain control and research”. The influx of new pain-killers, combined with the incorrect notion that just because doctors prescribe these drugs they are safe, has had a devastating effect.
Most pain relief drugs hit the exact same receptors in the brain as heroin, which means that they can be almost as addictive.
An exacerbating issue is how readily available some of these painkillers can be and the rate in which they are handed out to patients. Not only are patients getting hooked on the feeling, but also the family members who happen to hit a gold mine in the medicine cabinet. Not enough is being done or dealt with when it comes to this problem.
If you were in pain and something made it go away nearly instantaneously, why wouldn’t you take it? The dependence and side effects take a back seat to euphoria. Perhaps if doctor’s were more consistently aligned with individual patient needs, there could be a seismic shift in control.
4) Cocaine use has dropped significantly.
Though ubiquitous for a long time in many social and professional environments, cocaine has lost much of its allure in the USA. Vermont once again is the highest-ranking state for cocaine use, but is steadily declining in reported usage. Is the drug’s association with the 1980s contributing to the idea that it is a “has-been” drug past its sell-by-date?
Probably not, but that isn’t to say that the presence of other, newer drugs haven’t reduced cocaine’s popularity.
While cocaine use is falling, use of the party drug MDMA has significantly escalated, with hospital visits relating to MDMA increasing by nearly 130% between 2005 and 2011. MDMA (or 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, to use its full name) is a pure form of ecstasy’s key ingredient. Equipped with a friendly new nickname (“molly”), MDMA is becoming more and more prevalent on the party scene, with musicians like Jay Z, Lil Wayne, and Miley Cyrus all referring to the drug in their lyrics.
Many suggest that MDMA’s popularity as the party drug of choice has rocketed at the expense of cocaine.
This brings up the question as to how much responsibility our “role models” should be taking for spreading a very dangerous substance through the media. It can be seen as a minor win that cocaine is drifting away from the cultural lexicon, but with MDMA rising quickly, there isn’t much reason to celebrate.
Author: Ella Jameson
Editor: Jill Cimasko Berte-Renou / Editor: Renee Picard
Image by Torben Hansen