The statistics are staggering. More than 2,900 West Virginians have overdosed on prescription painkillers or heroin over the past five years.
These statistics have been reported by the state Health Statistics Center.
The center stated overdose deaths last year were the highest in West Virginia since 2011, and the state is on pace for a record year for OD deaths.
The Mountain State, which unfortunately is on many negative lists across the nation, has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation at nearly 34 deaths per 100,000 people. Per capita that is much more than twice the national average.
This not only has a terrible effect on families, but also law enforcement officials and other agencies who try to battle this addiction problem.
Southern West Virginia is not immune to this crisis. Mingo and Logan Counties have high rates of overdose cases.
Just this week, the director of West Virginia’s mine safety office says there is a growing substance abuse problem among coal miners.
Eugene White, of the Office of Mine Health, Safety and Training, told state legislators that more than 800 miners failed drug tests over the past three years.
Just this year 214 mining certificates have been suspended because of drug abuse. White told the group that prescription drugs are the most frequently abused drugs, while marijuana comes in second.
Many new potential coal miners failed pre-employment drug and alcohol screening. That total was more than 150.
So the drug problem also has a negative impact on the work force, which in turn bruises the economy.
President Barack Obama visited Charleston on Wednesday to address the issue.
In brief, he called for new policies aimed at cracking down on the sale of prescription painkillers and to encourage treatment for those addicted to opiates.
He also wants to require federal agencies to train doctors and nurses on how to properly prescribe addictive medications such as oxycodone.
Charleston and Kanawha County, along with Huntington and Cabell County are at the center of the drug problem, especially heroin, in West Virginia.
There are many types of prescription painkillers that have been abused the past few years. Now law enforcement agencies have seen an increase in fentanyl. Fentanyl is also being laced with heroin and injected, according to police officers.
The abuse of Fentanyl has caused several overdose deaths in 2015.
The drug problem is a true epidemic and is causing hardships among many families in our state.
It will be an ongoing battle for law enforcement officials and other agencies.
Hopefully President Obama’s funding will provide more help to combat this widespread crisis – or things will only get worse.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)