130972146.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge.jpgBy: Business Insider

Vermont has the highest rate of illicit drug use in the
country with 15% of people saying they’ve used within the past month (compared
to 4.2% in Utah, where drug use is the lowest), according to 2010-2011
surveys from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The state ranked high for almost every type of drug, from
marijuana to cocaine.

Experts attribute the problem to a combination of factors,
including weather, politics, and proximity to big cities. “You have
everything from the colder climate, which tends to be a reason some people
give, to more liberal attitudes, to higher income levels, to people having more
access, but I don’t think anyone knows for sure,” Barbara Cimaglio, the
Vermont Department of Health’s deputy commissioner for alcohol and drug abuse
programs, told Business Insider.

Cimaglio pointed out that marijuana accounts for a large
portion of the state’s drug use. Vermont ranked highest in the U.S. for
marijuana use, with about 13% of people saying they’ve used it in the past
month. “I think what drives this up tends to be the higher use of
marijuana, and if you look at the states [with high illicit drug use], they
tend to be the states that have decriminalized or have more favorable attitudes
toward use of marijuana,” she said.

Trafficking from out-of-state drug dealers has also worsened
Vermont’s drug problem, likely because the state has highways that feed into
big cities. “I think Vermont is really in sort of a perfect storm because
we’re on that highway between Montreal, Boston, New York, and also going to
Philadelphia,” Cimaglio said. “You have to go through Vermont to get
to some of the bigger cities like Boston, so it seems like some people are just
trafficking along the way and Vermont is one of the stops.”

Within the last year or so, she said, she’s heard more
stories of burglaries related to drug trafficking and more stories about people
being arrested in Vermont who aren’t from the state. Seven Days, an independent
newspaper in Vermont, reported
earlier this year that large amounts of heroin have been coming
into the state from big-city dealers who can sell the drug at a higher price in
Vermont. The drug is coming from New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago,
and Detroit.

A bag of heroin that would cost $5 in a big city can sell
for as much as $30 in Rutland, Vt., the city’s police chief James Baker
told the newspaper. Vermont is seeing an uptick in heroin
use, Cimaglio confirmed. Prescription drug use has also
risen dramatically in Vermont, as it has around the country,
the Burlington Free Press reported in 2011.

Vermont officials have taken notice of the drug use trends
and are trying to curb the problem. “We’ve enhanced our treatment services
greatly, and also law enforcement,” Cimaglio said. “We’re addressing
it on all fronts.”