Treatment Centers Overwhelmed by Heroin Crisis

vermont-heroinAs the nation continues to grapple with an opioid epidemic, most experts would agree that New England has been one of the regions hardest hit by the heroin scourge. New England’s close proximity to deep water port cities has provided an excellent environment for traffickers set on exploiting, what seems to be, an ever growing demand.

Many think of heroin as being an inner-city drug and an inner-city problem, the reality is much different. In fact, the demand for heroin in rural America has increased exponentially, the result of government crackdowns on prescription opioid abuse. Those dependent on opioids have turned to heroin as a stronger and, in most cases, cheaper fix.

A major problem facing New England states, such as Vermont, is that substance use disorder treatment clinics have become overwhelmed by the rise in heroin abusers. Users of the drug are often put on long waiting lists for treatment, ultimately discouraging many living with addiction to the point that continued use appears to be the only viable path. While about 40 percent more people in Vermont are seeking treatment for addiction, compared with a year ago, the number of deaths from heroin is rising, The New York Times reports.

Recognizing that the state is in the midst of what Governor Peter Shumlin called, a “full-blown heroin crisis,” the state legislature implemented a number of initiatives to tackle the problem. Shumlin gave addiction clinics a one-time grant to help them reduce the size of their waiting lists, according to the article.

Unfortunately, while the Governor’s efforts providing the grants are worthy of reverie, experts report that for every person admitted into treatment facilities, there are many more in desperate need of treatment.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” said Dr. Harry Chen, Vermont’s Health Commissioner. “Even if we almost double the number of people in treatment, for each person who seeks it, there are probably 10 others who need it.”