For a Generation of Appalachians, Growing Up With a Parent Addicted to Drugs is a Way of Life

Jan 6, 2017

While millions of addictive pain pills flooded West Virginia, a generation of Appalachians grew up with a parent addicted or abusing drugs. Hear some of their stories on this week's classic episode of Inside Appalachia.

In the United States, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death. Appalachian communities are among some of the hardest hit by this issue. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdoses in the country, with Ohio and Kentucky ranking in the top five.

It destroys relationships, families and communities. What’s it like to be addicted to something? What's it like when your addiction makes all the rules, even how you care for your kids and whether you live or die?

We'll hear the story of Kristina Weaver, or Breezie, who grew up in southern West Virginia with a  father who struggled with addiction. Her father, David Siers, died in June of 2015 of a heroin overdose.

We teamed up with producers Matt Shafer Powell and Jess Mador, with WUOT's podcast Truckbeat. We'll hear from recovering addicts, their families, as well as members of law enforcement, such as Sheriff Jack Stockton, whose own son suffers with addiction.

In W.Va. the five counties with the highest per-capita drug overdose-related death rates are concentrated in the southern parts of the state. All of them are coal-communities.

Credit Shayla Klein / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

According to West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Boone, Mingo and Wyoming counties are three of six counties in the state experiencing an economic downturn similar to that of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Those poor economies could be influencing addiction rates. A study by the Department of Health and Human Resources found that between 2010-2014, adults with incomes lower than $25,000 in counties with the highest drug overdose rates (Boone, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Raleigh and Wyoming) were significantly more likely to suffer from poor health, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression than other counties did.

Vince Brown of Oliver Springs, Tenn., looks at photos of his son Michael Brown, who became addicted to prescription painkillers after an injury ended his baseball career.
Credit Jess Mador / WOUT/Truckbeat

Music in today’s show was provided by Sam Keenan, Ben Townsend, Jake Schepps and Michael Howard.

Our producer is Roxy Todd. Our editor this week is Glynis Board. Our audio mixer is Zander Aloi.

We’d love to hear from you. You can e-mail us at feedback@wvpublic.org. Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia or @JessicaYLilly.