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CNN Today

Vermont Looks to Methadone to Combat Surge in Heroin Use

Aired April 27, 2000 - 2:24 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Drug agents tell us heroin use is soaring across New England. The narcotic is cheaper, purer, and more popular than ever. Now Vermont looks ready to legalize methadone treatments for heroin addicts despite reservations from the governor there. It is only one of eight states that prohibit methadone use.

Here's CNN's Bill Delaney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's gorgeous outside today, isn't it?

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For nine years now, any day that's been a good day for Mark Beresky (ph), he says, is because of methadone, the synthetic opiate he credits with keeping him off the opiate that nearly destroyed his life, heroin.

But to get the treatment, Beresky says saved him from a life of crime, homelessness, and despair, he's had to go across the state line. Five days a week, around dawn, in the hours before he goes to work, Beresky travels 75 miles in all to a clinic in Massachusetts because methadone in his home state of Vermont is illegal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing worked for me, absolutely nothing. In '91, I got into methadone treatment and it just turned my life around. The only loser I see in bringing methadone to the state of Vermont is the heroin dealer. For everyone else, it's a win-win situation.

DELANEY: A conclusion now unexpectedly shared, at least to a degree, by Vermont's governor, Howard Dean, a medical doctor who's vehemently opposed efforts in his legislature to legalize methadone, but now is expected to make the treatment available in hospitals, while not changing his basic position.

GOV. HOWARD DEAN, VERMONT: My view is opiates are terribly addictive, terribly dangerous substances. And I don't think you gain much by substituting one opiate for another.

DELANEY: Helping shift the governor's position, making passage of a methadone bill now likely at week's end, many methadone supporters say is the fact that heroin in New England is now less expensive, easier to get than at any time since the 1970s. (on camera): In keeping with the nationwide trend, cheaper, purer, more potent heroin, primarily from Colombia, has been pouring into New England for at least five years now, most of it arriving first here, the Boston area, police say, then distributed from the wilds of Northern Maine to the mountains of Vermont.

(voice-over): Also helping sway the governor: emotional testimony from addicts at a series of hearings, like remembering a woman who died in a car accident on another daily hundred mile-plus trek for methadone in Massachusetts.

ALICE DIORIO RANDOLPH, METHADONE USER: I knew how badly she wanted treatment and she was willing to do whatever she had to to get that treatment.

DELANEY: But now that the governor's compromised, it will no longer be easier to get heroin than methadone in Vermont.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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