Drug use has dried up in some areas and escalated in others in the pandemic. However, for teens in rural destinations like Vermont and Montana, drug use has managed to climb during the pandemic. For example, according to the Vermont Department of Health, nearly 14 percent of teens in Vermont used illicit drugs in the last month. That is almost two and half times more than Utah, where there is the smallest amount of teen drug use.
Vermont Teens And Opioids
In Vermont, opioid use is rampant, and the people who use it are young. Most users are in the age group of 18 to 25, and they use more opioids, especially heroin, than any other group in the country.
Like most people, it appears that young heroin users had a gateway, with nearly 80% of them admitting a history of prescription opioid abuse. Many people who use heroin started with a prescription opioid as a gateway drug. Heroin is cheaper and more accessible for many people to get ahold of than opioid pills.
Marijuana Use Steadily Climbing
In Vermont, marijuana has been decriminalized and is now sold recreationally. This is likely the cause of an uptick in use. Vermont has one of the highest rates of marijuana use in the country.
In 2019, when recreational marijuana first went on sale, a survey found that that the number of high school students, 27%, of high school students admitted to using pot in the last 30 days. Teens are more susceptible to the effects of marijuana, and using it at a young age can cause brain development issues and trouble with problem-solving.
Nearly 11% of 12- to 17-year-olds who use marijuana qualify as having a substance use disorder within a year of trying it.
Marijuana Use Is Normalized In Vermont
UVM Medical Center pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Lauren Faricy told Seven Days, a local newspaper, that smoking and vaping cannabis is “just really normalized” among the young people she treats. “I think in Vermont, in particular, people see it as kind of this natural thing: ‘It’s a plant, and therefore it’s not harmful.'”
She says she sees many young people who have damaged their lungs with inflammation caused by vaping oils. Vaping and smoking are both cause lung damage, regardless of a patient’s age.
Marijuana is typically a gateway drug to later, harder drug use.