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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Crack Cocaine: The Balloon Effect

crack cocaine
If you have been staying current with the news, you are aware that the United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. To take it one step further, you are likely aware that the Northeast and the Midwest have been affected especially hard. Even though many of the states who are struggling to get a handle on the situation are small, and have small populations relative to others, they can be seen as microcosm of the problem that America faces.

The state of Vermont is a perfect example, as is evident by the fact that Governor Peter Shumlin devoted his 2014 State-of-the-State Address to the heroin epidemic. After which, Vermont addiction treatment centers, law enforcement, and media outlets have fixed their eye on heroin—Vice reports. While placing heroin in the spotlight was, is the right move—but it is important that we see the forest for the trees.

When you think of prestidigitation, or sleight of hand, magic tricks probably come to mind. When everyone is looking in one direction, something important is happening in the other. It would seem that some have taken advantage of the focus on heroin to increase the sale of another insidious illegal narcotic. Last summer the state of Vermont saw a dramatic rise in “crack” cocaine use, according to the article.

Unlike heroin use, which can be tracked by calls to poison control centers and emergency department visits related to overdose, crack cocaine isn’t normally associated with overdoses. This means that incidents involving the drug often times come to light in the wake of crime. At the end of 2015, in an attempt to possess crack, three Vermonters poured gasoline over a young couple and burned them alive, the article reports. On top of that, a New Yorker was shot several times in Burlington, Vermont—the man was carrying crack and officials believe that he was a crack dealer.

“There’s a phenomenon called the ‘balloon effect’ where a focus on one drug can actually allow another drug market to blossom,” said Gina Tron to Vermont Public Radio, she wrote the Vice article. "It’s a characteristic of drug enforcement across the world. The demand for drugs doesn’t go away with enforcement, instead the illegal market just mutate and shifts. Dealers find ways around obstacles, and sometimes that manifest in the form of selling a different drug.”

It stands to reason that what officials in Vermont are seeing with crack, is indicative of what is happening in other parts of the country. In the wake of the opioid epidemic, nobody has their eye on the other narcotics that have the power to ruin lives. Drug dealers also carry a wide variety of drugs at any given time.

“More often than not, [crack is] distributed by the same people that distribute heroin,” said John Merrigan of Vermont State Police’s Narcotics Investigation Unit. “You can buy heroin and crack together.”

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