A state police drug investigator told The Boston Globe that efforts to make OxyContin harder to abuse is paying off in Vermont, but the downside is, drug addicts are switching to heroin.
OxyContin’s manufacturer Purdue Pharma changed the formula of the drug two years ago by making it resistant to crushing and cutting, a common practice by drug addicts to enhance OxyContin’s effect.
However, the said changes prompted an increase in the number of heroin users in Vermont in the past two years, with use spreading into high school students. Birmingham said “the younger kids think they can start by snorting heroin” to avoid dirty needles.
“You can get addicted all the same,” Birmingham noted, adding that young people “generally end up injecting once they get a full-blown addiction.”
According to state Health Department’s statistics, deaths attributed in whole or in part to heroin overdoses averaged fewer than three a year from 2004 to 2010. Last year, nine deaths have been linked to heroin abuse and six deaths have been recorded this year.
Birmingham also expressed their concern with drug distribution networks becoming better organized, making it easier for banned substances to reach established networks in Vermont.
“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.”