Opioid epidemic leads to increase in human trafficking

Traffickers are going after those with drug addiction problems in calculated ways.

The country’s opioid epidemic has taken another human toll—an increase in human trafficking cases.

Traffickers are using the desperation that comes with addiction to exploit victims, mostly women, forcing them into prostitution, according to The Berkshire Eagle.

In Massachusetts, trafficking is taking place even in rural areas such as the Berkshires in the western part of the state, Attorney General Maura Healey told the newspaper. A New York man was arrested in a Lee, Massachusetts, Super 8 motel room last month in the first case of human trafficking in Berkshire County. He was charged with trafficking a Vermont woman, identified as Victim No. 2, supplying her with drugs and selling her for sex via online advertisements.

RELATED: Physicians uniquely positioned to help victims of human trafficking

It’s a combination of a relatively new problem, widespread opioid addition, with one of the world’s oldest crimes: prostitution, the Eagle reported. Traffickers are earning enormous profits by exploiting those with addictions.

"[Traffickers] learn that it's very lucrative to sell a girl. Drugs you can only sell once; a girl you can sell over and over again,” Lisa Goldblatt Grace, director and co-founder of My Life My Choice, a Boston nonprofit focused on combating the commercial sexual exploitation of adolescents, told the newspaper. It’s a growing problem, according to law enforcement authorities, with traffickers going after those with drug addiction problems in calculated ways.

Traffickers have even parked outside methadone clinics and lured women with promises of drugs, food and housing, according to Healey.

As FiercePracticeManagement previously reported, physicians are in a unique position to help victims of human trafficking as they are likely to encounter them in emergency rooms and clinics while seeking healthcare. Physicians, therefore, are being trained to recognize the signs that someone may be a victim of human trafficking.