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West Virginia Addiction

In West Virginia there are two factors that combine to push the overdose rates higher than almost anywhere else in the US.

Many of the jobs available in WV are very manual labor intensive. Manufacturing, coal mining, timbering and the like carry an unusually high likelihood of physical injuries. When this pain medications are therefore prescribed to a large number of West Virginians.

Add to this an unusually high percentage of joblessness and we have a new prescription, a prescription for opioid abuse and addiction. Holding a job is essential for survival in any environment, but even more so in an economy that is under stress like we see in WV. Workers are sometimes given a choice between taking time off for recovery from a work related incident with the possibility of losing a job, or popping some pain pills and working through the pain. Apparently, too many will continue laboring rather than giving the injury a chance to heal.

It's an understandably tough choice, but these circumstances can combine to create a tidal wave of opioid addiction. When addiction increases, the black market cannot be far behind. Prescription opioids can go for as much as $50 per pill on the streets. Supplying this is an underground network that deals in diverted prescription oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet, Percodan or other drugs such as Xanax or Adderall.

Now the addict can be into a realm he or she has never entered, the realm of the illegal drug dealers.

Marnie is a housewife in Wheeling. She is 28 years old, has a 4 year old daughter and suffers from back pain and sciatica . After the birth of her daughter she was given a prescription for oxycodone and while it helps her get through the day, she began requiring higher and higher doses early on. She keeps her doctor from knowing how much she is really taking by supplementing his scripts with pills from Jake, a man she met outside a pharmacy who sells his pills for about $20 each.

But they really aren't 'his' pills. They are not even oxycodone, they are counterfeit drugs, manufactured in a clandestine lab in China and contain a substance called fentanyl. Marnie is playing a very dangerous game of Russian roulette. The quality and strength of these fake pills vary widely and next pill could be powerful enough to cause overdose.

One city, Huntington West Virginia, a few months ago experienced 27 overdoses in four hours from pain pills and heroin that were laced with other substances.

West Virginia has the highest overdose rate of any of the fifty states and D.C.

The solution to opioid addiction is to first, recognize that it IS a killer. Second, to seek treatment now. The sooner a person faces and deals effectively with this problem, the sooner they can get back to the business of living... alive.

Illicit Drug Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older in West Virginia, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2010, 2011, and 2012 NSDUHs (Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

While heroin overdoses increased in West Virginia, total overdose deaths from all drugs declined from 656 mortalities in 2011 to 558 deaths in 2012.

West Virginia State Government Agencies

Drug Abuse Facts

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