Opinion: Help is available locally for those struggling with drugs

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Mount Abraham Union High School student Abby Boss in reaction to the article she wrote (“Battle with Heroin Hits Home, Calls for Prevention”) for the school’s Bird’s Eyepublication, which ran in the Nov. 13 edition of the Independent. It is printed here with permission.
Dear Ms. Boss,
I commend you on your article “Battle with Heroin Hits Home, Calls for Prevention”, Nov. 13. Certainly education and prevention are very strong at Mt. Abe and very important to getting the drug issue in Bristol, Addison County, and the U.S. under control. Thank you very much.
Obviously the police are also very important and have done a stellar job in Bristol, and I’m sure elsewhere, in arresting drug suppliers. Bravo.
I see three very important requirements to solve the drug crisis. Police will tell you that when they arrest a supplier his or her place is backfilled in a short time. They will also say that suppliers rotate in and out of the community, most of them not staying long enough for police to make a case for arrest.
The fundamental problem is demand for drugs. As long as there is a high demand and money to be made, there will be suppliers. The police need to continue to arrest suppliers, but we also need to significantly reduce the demand.
Education and prevention are critical to present and future demand reduction. It is happening at Mt. Abe and I am sure in other middle schools and high schools in the state. Equally important is the treatment of people suffering from the disease of addiction to help them get them off and stay off drugs.
The elements of treatment are:
1)      Medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This treatment involves prescribing drugs (such as Suboxone) that block the brain receptors that crave opiates. MAT gives those suffering from the disease of addiction relief from that craving, and puts them on the road to recover their lives.
2)      Counseling. The objective is to address the reasons why getting into drugs happened and to help the patient come up with a healthy plan for their future.
3)      Long-term recovery. The aim here is to help people stay off drugs for the rest of their lives. Long-term recovery includes peer-based support groups, jobs, housing and more.
Education/prevention and treatment can significantly reduce the demand for drugs in the community. Along with that comes a reduction in suppliers and a reduction in crime.
In Addison County we now have medication-assisted treatment at Bristol Internal Medicine (802-453-7422). The number of doctors treating and the number of addicts being treated are increasing over time. Addicted people are hoping for even more doctors doing MAT to reduce the waitlist.
We also have counseling for addiction patients at the Counseling Service of Addison County (CSAC, 802-388-6751).
The Turning Point Center of Addison County (802-388-4249) provides the long-term recovery programs needed to help addicts stay off drugs for the rest of their lives.
You should also be aware that there are active Addison County community groups working on advancing all these important aspects of the drug issue in our community. For more information on these groups and their work, please contact Moira Cook, Health Services District Director, Vermont Department of Health (802-388-5732).
Again, I wish to thank you very much for your article about education and prevention at Mt. Abe. My hope is that you will follow up that article with the information provided above.
Bob Donnis
Addison County Drug Treatment Committee

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