A Guide to Drug Abuse and Recovery in New England


In recent years, substance abuse and addiction have become a major concern in the six states that make up New England: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. As reflected in a number of news articles, including one from The New York Times, abuse of drugs – heroin in particular – is becoming epidemic, not only in the urban areas which typically have issues with substance abuse, but also in the smaller towns that are not accustomed to these problems.

For those who are struggling with addiction or substance abuse in the New England area, there are a number of options for treatment, depending on the state. Because different states have different options, it’s important for anyone who is ready to find help with addiction to be aware of the treatment landscape and climate in the region.

This includes the prevalence and types of substance issues, and the state and regional provisions for treatment, including laws about substance use, abuse, and treatment as well as where different types of treatment can be found.

Addiction Treatment in New England

For the most part, substance abuse and addiction treatment in the New England area is managed by the various health authorities of the state in which treatment is provided. Most states have some level of state-run or state-funded mental healthcare that includes substance abuse treatment. The different authorities that manage treatment in each state include:

The states of New England are making a concerted effort to manage the challenges of illicit drugs and nonmedical use of prescription medications that contribute to the drug problems across the region. According to another New York Times article, the governors of the states have been working together in recent years to find ways of managing their states’ mutual struggles – particularly in regards to abuse of prescription opioids and heroin. In order to do so, it helps to have an understanding of the facts and research surrounding the problem.

Addiction Treatment in New England

Facts & Data

This guide offers an overview of substance abuse issues and treatment options in the New England states, especially as compared to the rest of the nation.

Available Treatment Program Types

Available Treatment Program Types in New England

According to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, the number of various treatment programs across the New England region varies:

Federal treatment centers are generally run by the Veterans Administration or the Department of Defense.

Rates of Drug Use and Mental Illness

The following chart compares the rates of illicit drug use, marijuana use, and nonmedical use of prescription drugs in the New England states with the rest of the nation, based on the percentage of people who used the drugs within the past month or past year, from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

For much substance abuse, rates in New England are higher than those in the rest of the county.

In addition, this region has a higher than average occurrence of mental health issues than the rest of the nation, for the most part. The prevalence of mental health issues, in percentages of total population, among the regional population compared with the national average follows:

  • Maine: 20.55%
  • Vermont: 20.46%
  • New Hampshire: 20.86%
  • Massachusetts: 20.11%
  • Connecticut: 16.44%
  • Rhode Island: 21.6%
  • National: 18.29%
Rates of Drug Use in New England CSRI

Deaths Involving Drug Abuse

heroin deaths new england

The heroin epidemic has resulted in a high number of deaths due to overdose in the New England region. Overdose deaths as reported by each state are outlined below:

Based on population, Rhode Island’s rate of death by overdose is actually higher than that of Massachusetts.

Number of Deaths Involving Drug Abuse New England

Crime Rates for Drug Abuse and Mental Illness

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, the New England area is considered to be a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

This report states that heroin and controlled prescription opiates constitute the largest substance abuse threat in the region. Cocaine and marijuana are also significant trafficking and use threats to the region.

The 2015 National Drug Threat Survey reports that New England has the highest percentage of heroin-related crime of any region, with more than 46 percent of survey respondents reporting heroin as a drug that contributes to crime. In addition, New England has relatively high rates of crime related to marijuana and nonmedical use of prescription drugs, at 8.9 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively.

New England Legal Issues on Addiction and Treatment

According to an article on the New Hampshire government website, the work of the New England governors includes work to get the US federal government to expand access to medications shown to be beneficial in treating opiate addiction, such as buprenorphine and naltrexone. The governors maintain that access to these medications can provide higher levels of relapse prevention for people who are getting treatment for addiction in these states.

Massachusetts in particular is also trying to change laws to help people with addiction issues get treatment rather than end up incarcerated. According to the state’s Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline, Massachusetts recently enacted a law that is working to prevent women who are addicted to drugs or alcohol from being civilly committed to correctional facilities if treatment beds are full, helping to fund more treatment beds and provide more options for treatment. More efforts like these are being undertaken to deal with the drug abuse epidemic plaguing the region.

treatment awards
treatment awards

Treatment Credentials and Accreditations

Each state in the New England region has its own accrediting processes. Most of these are undertaken through the state’s department of public health. In most cases, databases of credentialed organizations can be found on the states’ health department websites, such as the Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline in Massachusetts and the Online Verification and Complaint Submission site in Rhode Island.

Contacting the state authority managing addiction treatment services can help a person who is seeking treatment to determine whether or not a facility, program, or individual providing treatment is properly certified, trained, and accredited.

Nonprofit and Government Treatment Resources

Along with the government health departments listed at the beginning of this article, there are nonprofit and government treatment resources for each state, including:

Treatment Credentials and Accreditations

With these resources, and others listed above, it is possible for people seeking treatment in New England to find affordable, effective treatment services to get them on the path to recovery.