Cocaine Abuse Threatens UVM

It’s Thursday evening and UVM juniors Paul*, Mike* and Jane sit in Paul’s off-campus house drinking beer while Paul and Mike wait anxiously for a gram of cocaine. They said it’s easy for them to score a bag of powdered cocaine in Burlington, that it’s just a matter of who can get it to them first. “Dealers are so unreliable,” said Mike. “They’re always doing lines or blown out. When it gets here, I’m gonna rail the hugest line ever.” It’s slightly before 10 p.m. and Julie*, also a junior at UVM, arrives with the cocaine. She takes a gram out of her jacket pocket and shows it to Mike. Mike looks intently at the bag of white powder and gives her $60. Paul, Mike and Julie rush up the stairwell to Paul’s room. Jane*, another junior, who has never snorted cocaine, soon follows. Cocaine is the second most significant drug threat to Vermont, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center’s Vermont Drug Threat Assessment published January, 2002. It is distributed primarily by local independent Caucasian dealers who purchase it from Dominican criminal groups in Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell and Springfield, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; and New York, New York. The drug is transported in private automobiles and works its way into the more populated areas of Vermont including Brattleboro, Burlington and Rutland. It filters down into the hands of UVM students who purchase it for $60 to $70 a gram. The markup on the prices is significant and the cocaine is cut and mixed with baby laxatives, creatine, aspirin and anything else that’s white. Treatment data and law enforcement sources indicate that the overall level of cocaine abuse in Vermont is relatively stable. “I see no signs of it decreasing,” said Glenn Hall, supervisor of the Vermont Drug Task Force. “There’s been a lot of publicity around heroin, but cocaine hasn’t let up at all, and is still prevalent.” The Vermont Drug Task Force works in conjunction with other state law enforcement agencies as well as local law enforcement agencies including UVM Police Services to crack down on cocaine in Vermont. “When you consider Vermont, Burlington is certainly a hot spot for us,” said Hall. UVM presents particular difficulty to Hall and his team. “We’ve always had the problem where UVM is close-knit,” he said. “It’s difficult for us to infiltrate that.” Hall relies heavily on tips to carry out his operations. UVM Police Chief Gary Margolis said he is fully aware of the cocaine use at UVM. “I think it’s a problem, but I wouldn’t say it’s more of a problem than other drugs,” said Margolis. Users tell another story. Mike, who uses cocaine several times a month, said it is prevalent at UVM. “It’s something everyone does and no one talks about,” he said. UVM junior T.J.* uses cocaine about twice a month and said it’s readily available to students. “I see it everywhere,” he said. “Everyone knows someone who’s a cokehead around here. I got offered coke on campus 20 feet outside the bookstore.” T.J. estimates that 10 to 15 pounds of cocaine move through Burlington every weekend. It’s 10:10 p.m. and Paul and Mike sit on the couch with Julie. They listen to “Terrapin Station” by the Grateful Dead and tell stories about cocaine use in the bathrooms of the bars downtown and how they know people who go to class high. Jane looks on from across the glass-paneled table. Julie crushes the cocaine with a lighter and then a phone card. She rips a hole in the plastic bag and pours half a gram of coke on the table, cutting it into three lines. She snorts a line through a piece of a yellow straw and Paul and Mike finish off the gram. Mike sees a little coke left on the table and rolls his cigarette in it before he smokes it. They buy another gram from Julie and she leaves. After 20 minutes, Mike feels the peak of the effects. “Now I feel good,” said Mike. “My heart’s beating quicker, I’m a little sweaty. It makes your muscles contract. You plow beers. That was kind of a tease,” he said, biting through the plastic bag of another gram. The effects also hit Paul pretty hard. “My nasal cavity’s burning,” he said. “The music gets me fired up. Now I can actually drink.” Mike pours most of the next gram on the table and Jane watches. It’s 10:45 and Jane prepares to snort cocaine for the first time. “I love putting things in my nose,” she said, including Ritalin and heroin. “Coke has all this baggage with the word. That’s kind of the reason I didn’t want to be associated with it. I’m surprised I haven’t blown it before.” Jane blows her first line. Minutes later, she’s feeling more alert. “I definitely have the drips,” she said. “I feel good. I want more.” UVM juniors John*, Greg* and Rick* arrive minutes apart and everyone deliberates about who will get the last four lines. “People go crazy,” said Mike. “They want to get into the middle of it…cutting lines.” One at a time they snort the last four lines, roll their cigarettes in it and rub some on their teeth, coke acting as a local anesthetic. At 11:30 p.m., they run out of cocaine. But Mike’s glad he doesn’t have any more money. Last Thursday evening, he snorted three and a half grams alone and said it destroyed him. Mike said if he had an endless supply of cocaine his life would be over. “I would forget about everything,” he said. “After a month, I would just be worthless. I don’t think this is cool. I’m not proud of it. I don’t think anyone’s proud of it.” *names have been changed