A decade ago, drug-induced deaths in Vermont were below the national average. But so much has changed since then. Vermont has been called the heroin capital of the U.S. It’s also topped national lists for substance use and dependence, and its residents have struggled the most in the drug-ridden Northeast region.

The following are 6 of the most used drugs in the state of Vermont:

#1. Heroin

Vermont’s heroin and opioid epidemic prompted former Gov. Peter Shumlin to spend the whole of his 2014 speech discussing the ‘state of emergency’.

Vermont adopted a holistic approach including medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and harm reduction strategies. The state developed the ‘hub and spoke model’. This model incorporates initial addiction treatment into the local health care system, before referring patients to specialist services. As a result, Vermont’s overdose death rate dipped below the national average.

The following facts depict the situation in Vermont:

  • Since the year 2000, the number of Vermonters treated for heroin abuse increased by a whopping 770%.
  • According to the Vermont Department of Health, at least 3148 people in Vermont were in treatment for opioid addiction and 110 people were on waiting lists in July 2017.
  • Younger demographics including the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups are particularly at risk of heroin addiction.
  • Some Vermont syringe services programs, also known as ‘needle exchanges’, provide buprenorphine prescriptions, naloxone, and referrals to treatment centers.

#2. Fentanyl

Like other states, Vermont has seen spikes in overdose deaths even after taking action to curb the public health crisis. In 2016, 148 people died from overdoses. That’s 40 more people than the year before.

These increases in overdose fatalities have been linked to the potent synthetic opioids, fentanyl and carfentanil. Fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. In some cases, users are unaware that their drugs are laced with substances used as elephant tranquilizers.

Consider these disturbing statistics:

  • In 2018, fentanyl was found in 75% of opioid-related deaths in Vermont.
  • That year, Windham County suffered the highest number of fentanyl-related fatalities (18) in the state.
  • Since 2015, the number of deaths linked to fentanyl has almost tripled.

#3. Prescription Drugs

Highly addictive prescription drugs such as the opioid Oxycontin are prescribed for pain management. Prescription drugs are also abused recreationally. When they become inaccessible due to higher costs and expiring prescriptions, new heroin and opioid addicts are created.

Here’s a glimpse into Vermont’s Rx problem:

  • 2 to 3% of Vermont’s population has an opioid addiction and, in many cases, prescription drugs are to blame.
  • When compared to other Vermont counties in 2017, more Washington County high schoolers took prescription drugs without a prescription.
  • RX opioids were linked to 28% of drug-related deaths in 2018.

#4. Marijuana

Marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use in Vermont. There have been years where the state’s cannabis consumption has been the highest in the country. This is largely because of liberal attitudes towards the substance. But marijuana use has a downside:

  • In 2016, 1,269 people were treated for marijuana abuse in Vermont.
  • More adolescents between ages the 12 and 17 tried marijuana for the first time in Vermont than in the country overall. Bear in mind that marijuana use in teens can negatively impact brain development and set a dangerous precedent for future substance use disorders.

#5. Alcohol

National data illustrates that the number of Vermonters who binge drink is above average. In 2015, 3,635 Vermonters were treated for alcohol abuse.

Have a look at these county-specific facts:

  • 2017: in Vermont’s most populous county, Chittenden, there were more binge drinkers aged 18-24 than in other areas of the state.
  • 2016: in Windham County, the percentage of adults 65 and older who drank at risky levels was greater than elsewhere in the state.
  • In northern counties such as Essex, Lamoille and Orleans, more teens drove under the influence of alcohol than in other parts of the state.

#6. Cocaine

In 2002, the National Drug Intelligence Center listed crack cocaine as the biggest drug threat to Vermont after heroin. Vermont has certainly seen an uptick in crack cocaine use. And there’s some overlap with opioids as the following figures indicate:

  • In 2018, more than a third of opioid-related deaths in Vermont involved a combination of fentanyl and cocaine.
  • In the same year, cocaine mixed with heroin accounted for 21% of deaths.

Treatment for Substance Abuse

If you or someone you know is struggling with a drug addiction, seeking treatment is the best course of action. You can find some of the best Drug Rehabs in Vermont by searching through our directory. In Vermont, there are minimal wait times to access help.

Where relevant, MAT is provided to curb cravings and combat withdrawal symptoms. Intensive treatment is followed by maintenance care. If you live in a rural area, online video therapy is used to support your progress and reduce the number of trips you have to make to access services.

It’s important to remember that relapses don’t mean that recovery is impossible. There is hope. Take the first step and contact Rehab Adviser to discuss the best options for you.


  1. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/02/vermont-heroin-capital-of-america-103280
  2. https://www.businessinsider.com/15-maps-that-show-how-americans-use-drugs-2013-9?IR=T
  3. https://slate.com/business/2014/01/charts-vermont-s-full-blown-heroin-crisis.html
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl
  5. https://apps.health.vermont.gov/ias/querytool?top
  6. https://www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drug-abuse/alcohol-drugs/marijuana
  7. https://www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drug-abuse/alcohol-drugs/alcohol
  8. https://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/ADAP_Data_Brief_Opioid_Related_Fatalities.pdf
  9. https://www.vpr.org/post/vermont-cracks-down-heroin-crack-cocaine-use-surges#stream/0

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