High in the Green Mountains
As Seven Days reported last week, Vermont ranks among the top five states in the nation for consumption of the active ingredient in Ritalin. Now, recent figures from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reveal that Vermont is also high on the list for its abuse of two other substances: alcohol and cocaine.
Between 1992 and 2002, Vermont ranked fifth in the nation for its increase in cocaine-treatment admissions: They went up 67 percent. Over the same period, admission rates for cocaine nationally went down by 24 percent. Vermont also ranked ninth overall in the nation for binge drinking -- that is, for the percentage of people between 18 and 25 who consumed five or more drinks on one occasion.
But experts warn against drawing too many conclusions from these figures. It's worth noting that the highest-ranking states, in both categories, have relatively small populations; for example, Rhode Island ranks first in the nation for cocaine use and binge drinking.
Not all the drug-abuse news was bad, either. Compared to other states, Vermont has been successful in reducing teen tobacco use, which has been cut by 50 percent over the last decade. Doug Dows, who directs Vermont's Safe and Healthy Schools, sees that as an opportunity. If Vermont can keep a lid on teenage consumption of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana, other illegal drugs are less likely to become a problem. As he puts it, "Kids don't go to a heroin party or a methamphetamine party. They go to an alcohol party and they get heroin and methamphetamine."