#5: “What’s Happening in Vermont is a very important and noteworthy”-Rick Rawson

What unites us?  Well, we all want to improve the Opiate epidemic problem in Vermont.  The only thing that divides us is how we are going to go about it. There are so many ways that we could try and work on it: education, treatment, preventing the drugs from getting into our state, or making sure doctors are more careful about the drugs they prescribe.  We have so many ideas, it is hard to focus on one thing at a time. There is no doubt that we all want this problem to end.

Since 1999 the deaths related to overdoses have increased by 400 percent. 78 people in the country die because of an overdose every day. We have a big problem in our nation and we need to stop it. Our state is one of the worst, so it’s a great place to start.

We have treatment clinics to help people, but, we don’t have enough to provide help for the number of people that are addicted to Opioids. The waiting lists for these clinics are very high.  Roughly 300 patients statewide are on waiting lists. Vermont is working hard and the waiting lists are going down, but it is still a problem. There is an estimated 20,000 people in Vermont who are addicted and it is hard to help every single one of them.

We also have a lot of drug dealers in our state. Dealers like to come to Vermont because they can raise the price much higher than they could in metropolitan cities like Boston and New York. It is easy for drug dealers to drive a few short hours and increase the price by 5 times.

Vermont has stood up and taken notice.  There are many things going on in our state to help keep the epidemic at bay and to prevent it from worsening.

In Vermont, there are many clinics like the UVM Outpatient Addiction Treatment Clinic, and other smaller clinics around the state also owned by the hospital. Many people have gotten treatment at these clinics because they are funded by Vermont’s Medicaid program. This is something that is very helpful and allows many people who need treatment to get it. Other states do not provide assistance, this is the case in New Hampshire.

Another step towards improvement that Vermont has taken is that 46 doctors are now allowed to prescribe the drug Buprenorphine. This drug helps prevent patients from most withdrawal symptoms. This is good because it could help addicts from going back to the drug, to feel better.

“Understanding addiction not as something that should be treated in isolation but as a public health issue” (citation #2).Rick Rawson, is someone who has traveled the world to help create treatment centers decided to move back to Vermont. When he came back he was shocked to see how many people in Vermont were addicted to opiates. So he decided to convey an experiment to see how well Vermont was doing. If everything we were doing was actually helping. He wanted to see how many Vermonters were addicted, and how many of these treatment clinics are working. He has not found any evidence but does say that “Vermont is five years ahead of the rest of the country.”.

I also read about some action that is being taken is a prevention course with students. In Europe, Canada and Australia there is a course called Preventure. Preventure was created by Patricia Conrad, a professor at  the University of Montreal. It was created for kids that have the traits that can lead to addiction before it actually happens. Children take a test, and the kids who are the most likely to get addicted, start taking courses to help prevent them from getting involved with drugs. So far this program has some good results; I think that if Vermont tries it out it could be very helpful. The idea makes sense and it could help stop the problem at an early age.

So, even though Vermont has a huge problem there are definitely some positive actions being taken already. There are many clinics in Vermont that are working, and many people who are aware of the situation.

After digging deeper into the issue my Questions are: Are these things that Vermont is doing helping? Do the people who are affected by the epidemic think this helping, or that they could get help? Is there something that seems like it would help not actually helping? I hope that over the year I will be able to answer these questions, through interviews and articles.


#1: @true_morgan. “Vermont Charges Ahead on Opioid Addiction Battle | VTDigger.” VTDigger. N.p., 2016. Web. 09 Oct. 2016.

#2: @federman_adam. “Researcher Aims to Give State New Tools to Fight Opiate Crisis | VTDigger.” VTDigger. N.p., 2016. Web. 09 Oct. 2016.

#3: MAIA SZALAVITZ. “The 4 Traits That Put Kids at Risk For Addiction.” The New York Times. N.p., 29 Sept. 2016. Web. Sept.-Oct. 2016

#4: Mark Epler. “Health Matters: AnAlternative to Prescription Opioids.” N.p., Sept.-Oct. 2016. Web. 9 Oct. 2016

Featured Photo: Morgan True. The Chittenden Clinic in South Burlington. N.d. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.

Petra Kapsalis

6 Responses to “#5: “What’s Happening in Vermont is a very important and noteworthy”-Rick Rawson

  • Petra,
    Thank you for another interesting and informative post! A quickly answerable question I have is, was the 400% statistic for Vermont or the entire country? It is statistics like that which shock me, and make me wonder how something this huge is going on in my own state and I don’t even come in contact with it–or at least, I don’t KNOW that I come in contact with it.
    A deeper question I have to think about: which solution works more effectively, prevention or treatment? I think they’re both important, but should Vermont be broadening our focus to strengthening both of them, or focusing mostly on one to build an extremely strong program? And what is Vermont currently doing?
    Reading about Preventure was extremely interesting for me. On one hand, that does sound like it could be helpful. On the other hand, how do they determine who is most likely to get addicted: the kid’s genetics or their background? And could it lead to stereotyping the kids who do have to take the courses? I think that prevention is the most important part of the program to think about, but could these “side-effects” also have a part?
    I admire how focused and passionate on this topic you are!

    • Greta,
      Thank you for you really thoughtful comment! It means a lot that you are thinking that much about my blogs! Anyway, to answer your first question the 400% statistic I believe was for the country. I agree that when I was reading about these statistics it was shocking and scary how much of a problem it is. I also did not realize how close to home it was, I did not realize that it was in my county.

      I also have the same question floating around in my brain too, and I hope to answer it by the end of this year. I think because all of these steps to stop the problem have been relatively new they don’t have any facts about which ones work, and which ones work better. I am really interested in learning about that when the statistics come out.

      You made a really good point that you made about Preventure. They base it off of their characteristics and traits, by the way they answer certain questions. Which could feel like stereotyping, but they might have more information about why those traits would relate to addiction. I agree it is a very thin line between stereotyping, and making predictions based on passed experiments.
      Thank you again for your thought revoking comment, I really appreciate it!

  • Kate Carroll
    6 years ago

    Hi Petra,

    I was very engaged by your selections from your source materials this week, and I was particularly struck by Rawson’s objectives:

    “The first is figuring out how many people are dependent on opiates, for which he says there is no solid data. The second is taking a close look at the treatment methods being used and determining if they’re working”

    I wonder what other models there are for treatment methods other than the hub and spoke. Considering Vermont’s challenging geography, my gut tells me our current method seems to fit, but what are the other options? I am also eager to see what his research reveals about Vermont’s hub and spoke’s current efficacy.

    I am curious about your thoughts/understanding/questions regarding Rawson’s comment:

    “Understanding addiction not as something that should be treated in isolation but as a public health issue” (citation #2)

    I took this to mean that individual doctors/treatment centers treating individual addicts will not solve the problem. I think his comment about treating addiction as a “public health issue” connects to your consideration of education’s role in prevention and treatment. But I also wonder how other public health issues have been addressed as a way to consider how we might address addiction similarly and differently at a societal level.

    Then just yesterday, I read the following essay that toggles back and forth between the writer’s personal story of her Adderall Addiction and its origins, statistics, treatment, unknowns on a national level; as a teacher, I was particularly struck by how much the writer’s desire to excel academically triggered her initial use :


    I wonder if there is any way to track Rawson’s research results before it is officially presented as your questions totally relate to what he is looking at. One sources that might be helpful is The Turning Point website.

    Would it be possible for you interview any primary care/family physicians, so you could ask them about experiences treating patients with addiction.

    Best wishes with these week’s post. I look forward to reading your next installment,
    Kate Carroll

  • Mrs. Carroll,
    Thank you for all of the articles that you gave me! I really appreciate all of them they help me a lot for my blogs! I agree those 2 quotes that you mentioned were interesting, and they really stuck with me.
    For the first quote you mentioned, I was excited to see the results too. I was a little disappointed that they did not have the results, but I understand that it will take a long time. It is a very ambitious study. It would be interesting to also find out about other options because the only treatment options that I have read about were the clinics. There might be different treatment options in different sates because of the different characteristics socially, and geographically.
    As for the second quote you mentioned, it took it similar to the way you understood it. I thought he was trying to say: we can’t look at addiction in each individual person, we have to look at it as a state issue and face it together. Partly because of how many people are addicts so it will be more effective if we look at it in general.
    I think it could be a possibility to interview some primary care/family physicians and would help give me valuable information.
    Thank you for your help so far,

  • Petra –

    I learned a great deal about the opioid problems here in Vermont from your post. You have a great amount of information already and I understand that you and many others are questioning what we should do first to try to solve this problem. I’m wondering how all of us can get the information out to more young people about this epidemic. I realize that it’s a very sensitive topic and more families in all communities in Vermont are involved in it but they are scared to talk about it. We have been taught since we were young that drugs are bad and the people who use drugs are bad as well. Unfortunately this message is not helpful if we are going to solve this opioid crisis. We need to have confidence that young people can understand the complexity of this crisis. We need to have families talking about this topic on a nightly basis if it will ever get solved.


    • Erin-
      I am so glad that you learned so much from my post! I agree that the perspective of how we look at this problem is essential. If we blame the people without learning their stories first we are not going to get anywhere close to solving this problem. I also agree that we should be confronting this problem more, and learning about it more. We have to first understand the problem before we try to start helping it.
      I enjoyed hearing you opinion on the topic,

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