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Heroin Use Increases in Vermont as OxyContin Abuse Declines

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Vermont officials report an increase in heroin use, as OxyContin abuse decreases, according to the Associated Press. The state Health Department notes nine people died of heroin overdoses in 2011, and six have died so far this year. Between 2004 and 2010, such deaths averaged fewer than three per year.

Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, released a new version of the drug two years ago that is resistant to crushing and cutting, common ways in which the drug was tampered with to enhance its effect. It is now much more difficult to prepare for snorting or injecting.

Vermont has seen an increase in the number of young people who start using heroin by snorting it, Lieutenant Matt Birmingham, head of the Vermont Drug Task Force, told the newspaper. They think it is safer than injecting the drug, because they avoid dirty needles. ‘‘You can get addicted all the same,’’ he noted, adding that young people ‘‘generally end up injecting once they get a full-blown addiction.’’

Heroin is being used more widely in the state’s rural areas. Birmingham said officials are seeing more organized drug dealing networks that bring in drugs from areas such as New York City.

‘‘Law enforcement realized very quickly that we cannot solve this problem at all by arresting our way out of it. It’s just not going to happen,’’ he said. ‘‘As long as there is a demand here for heroin and opiate products, the supply will just keep coming. And you’re just not going to stop it unless you build a 20-foot fence around the state.’’

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