West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdoses in the country, according to a recent report. In fact, more people die in this state from drug overdoses than in car accidents. Drug abuse, particularly abuse of prescription drugs, has become the scourge of Appalachia.
Rich Hamburg, deputy director of the Trust for America's Health, says the problem boils down to access - and West Virginia presents the perfect blend of rural poverty with prescription-drug access. Oxycontin, Vicodin, Xanax, Ritalin and hydrocodone are flooding the state, nearly uninhibited. What began as blessings to folks whose life-long labor meant they were left in chronic pain, has become a curse to many of their neighbors.
Hamburg, according to one report, explained the majority of abusers are not the ones to whom these drugs were originally prescribed. "So we are talking about just going to your parents' bathroom and grabbing a handful of pills that they might have forgotten about," he said, though, of course, that does not describe the entire problem.
Such self-inflicted damage must end. West Virginians fight enough battles without having to tolerate this internal cancer.
Doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers, politicians, parents, teachers and every other member of the community have the responsibility to tackle this monster. No more feigned ignorance, no more irresponsible prescriptions, no more neglect of the medicine cabinet, no more turning a blind eye.
When the people of this state put their minds toward solving a problem, it gets solved. It is well past time to put a stop to prescription drug abuse.