How West Virginia Became Ground Zero for the Opioid Epidemic

Jun 3, 2016

This week on The Front Porch, we revisit one of our most popular podcasts - how West Virginia became ground zero for the opioid drug epidemic.

Ashley (right) is recovering from addiction to heroin. She says drug court, a six-month treatment program and her 12-step program are helping her stay clean.
Credit Roxy Todd / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia has the nation's worst rate of drug overdose deaths. It started with prescription painkillers, and now is increasingly fueled by heroin.

On this week's "The Front Porch," we debate what's causing the epidemic, and what might actually work in curbing it.

We speak with Ashley, a recovering heroin addict about why she began using, how she got clean, and the struggles to remain sober for her three kids.

We also ask whether society is ready to treat addiction as a health issue, or whether we are still quick to make moral judgments about people with drug addictions.

Finally, we debate what's at fault:

- An unwillingness by state and federal officials to pay for treatment, even if it is less expensive and more effective than jailing addicts

- Prescription drug companies, for marketing painkillers heavily in the region (West Virginia consumes more prescription painkillers per capita than any other state)

- Workers Comp, for only paying for cheaper drugs and not expensive physical therapy for injured workers

- Drug dealers, who profit from peddling misery

- People who give drugs to people who then overdose (and should they be charged with felony murder?)

- People with addiction (what about personal responsibility?)

- A general sense of hopelessness in our region that leads to more drug abuse

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An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available above.

Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you'd like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @ wvpublic.org

The Front Porch is underwritten by The Charleston Gazette Mail, providing both sides of the story on its two editorial pages. Check it out: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/