MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - For the first time, more Vermont residents sought treatment for opiate addiction than for alcoholism in fiscal 2013, according to new figures from the state Health Department.
Human Services Secretary Harry Chen, who attended a news conference last week to discuss a report on the deaths of two toddlers in homes where opiate abuse had been reported, provided The Associated Press with a chart showing the number of people seeking treatment for each.
The chart, which covers a 10-year period, shows the number of Vermonters seeking alcohol treatment in decline, from 4,987 in 2004 to 3,776 in fiscal 2013, which covers the 12 months ending in June 2013. The number seeking opiate addiction treatment, meanwhile, climbed from 1,199 in 2004 to 4,043 over the same period.
Bill Young said he has noticed a change during his time as director of Maple Leaf Farm, an addiction treatment center in Underhill.
“I started this job 10 years ago, in November of ‘04,” Young said. “About 22 percent of our admissions were for opiate addiction, and 78 percent alcohol. That has almost reversed itself completely.”
Chen said the state has sharply expanded its programs for treating opiate addiction in recent years, and he believes there’s less stigma attached to the drugs now. He couldn’t explain the decline in alcohol abuse treatment but noted that statistics don’t count the people who begin to address their problem by going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
He noted that people often live with alcohol dependency for longer - 25 years is typical - before seeking treatment. With opiates, the time between starting the drug and seeking treatment averages eight years, Chen said. One result: Those in alcohol treatment often are in their 40s and 50s, while opiate abusers are in their 20s, he said.
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