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Heroin Use Rises in New England

Officials in VT, ME and NH say Rx drug addicts are increasingly resorting to cheaper heroin.

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By McCarton Ackerman

05/13/13

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Rising prescription drug costs and aggressive marketing from regional drug dealers have resulted in a surge in heroin use throughout Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, the Times Argus reports. Police, fire and health officials in Portland, Maine put out a community warning after 14 heroin overdoses were reported in a single month, including four in one 24-hour period. And Rutland, VT Police Chief James Baker says the spike in heroin use and opiate addiction throughout town is the worst he's seen in 35 years of policing. “If you get addicted to prescription pills, it’s really hard financially to keep that up. Heroin is cheaper," says Vermont’s US Attorney Tristram Coffin, who traces the problem back to 2009 when state officials first fired off a warning about rising opiate addiction. In response, special multi-agency teams have been set up to share information and target offenders while also stepping up educational efforts and treatment programs. Local, state and federal officials have also publicly warned dealers that they will face serious consequences if caught. Manchester, NH Police Chief David Mara blames the rise on economics: an 80 milligram pain tablet sells for about $80 compared to a bag of heroin that goes for about $15. Anthony Pettigrew of Boston, a spokesman for the US Drug Enforcement Agency, says that larger bags of heroin are now coming into Vermont as dealers begin to more aggressively market the drug. Says Pettigrew: "If they can move heroin from New York or Philly or Boston or Lowell and Lawrence up into Vermont and make a significant profit, they are going to do that." Heroin use among teens, as an offshoot of prescription drug addiction, has continued to rise in suburban towns across the US.

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