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Opioid Epidemic: What is West Virginia Doing to Fight Back?

While drug overdose deaths, many of which have been linked to opioids, are growing across the country, West Virginia has been one of the hardest hit by this epidemic. West Virginia reported 884 drug overdose deaths in 2016, with just over 85% or 756 of those deaths involving some type of opioid. This is a jump from 735 overdose deaths in 2015, which is bad news for this struggling area of the country and shows the severity of this statewide opioid epidemic.

Why Has West Virginia Been Hit so Hard With Drug Overdose Deaths?

While there’s no clear-cut answer as to why West Virginia has seen such an increase in opioid related overdose deaths over the past several years, there are several causes that are most definitely contributing factors.

  • High rates of manual labor jobs – Opioid prescriptions began skyrocketing in the mid 1990’s as pharmaceutical companies began to introduce opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and MS Contin. These drugs were prescribed heavily to treat pain, which affected many West Virginia residents who had jobs involving manual labor such as timbering, manufacturing and coal mining.
  • High unemployment rate – As of October 2017, West Virginia had an unemployment rate of 5.1%, which was the fourth highest in all of the US. Jobs in sectors like mining and manufacturing have seen significant cuts over the past several years.
  • Popularity of ‘pill mills’ – As the opioid epidemic spread throughout West Virginia and across the country, ‘pill mills’ began to show up and thrive in the hills of West Virginia. One pharmacy in particular in Kermit, West Virginia for example, provided more than 3 million doses of hydrocodone in 2006, based on an investigative news story from Salon, showing that at one time, anyone that complained of pain to certain doctors could quite easily obtain opioids to feed their addiction.

What is West Virginia Doing to Stop This Statewide Drug Crisis?

Recently lawmakers in West Virginia established an Office of Drug Control Policy, which plans to work with public health experts from Marshall University, West Virginia University and Johns Hopkins University to help continue to combat the growing opioid epidemic.

Recent data that tracked overdose deaths through the middle of October 2017 show 558 drug fatalities so far this year, which seems to indicate that the numbers have begun to drop. Some health officials are attributing this to the distribution of thousands of doses of Naloxone, which is an antidote used by emergency personnel that can help people start breathing again after an opioid overdose.

Interested in Opiate Detox From a State of the Art Facility?

If you’re currently struggling with opiate addiction, don’t hesitate to contact the Advanced Rapid Detox team. We offer a safe and fast 3-day opiate detox where treatment and recovery all take place at Pontiac General Hospital. To learn more about our unique treatment program, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team today by phone at 800-603-1813 or through our online contact form. Let’s work together to finally get your life back!