Opioids

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President Donald Trump's Commission on the Opioid Crisis recently recommended that the president declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. The commission said that such a declaration could free up money to fight the epidemic.

Back in April, we aired a special report about the opioid epidemic here in Appalachia. So this week, we’re going to revisit that story to remember how some Appalachians became addicted, and what a battle for sobriety can be like.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the small town of Harpers Ferry in the Eastern Panhandle is often referred to as a gateway into West Virginia. It was a prominent place during the American Civil War-- the site of John Brown’s Raid. Today, it’s home to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park as well as nearly 300 residents.

The park, along with the commercial area of the town, sees thousands of visitors each year from around the country and all over the world. In June, Harpers Ferry elected a new mayor –Wayne Bishop. Liz McCormick sat down with Bishop to hear how he plans to lead the iconic West Virginia town.

Trump Ignores Call For Opioid Emergency: What It Means For The Ohio Valley

Aug 8, 2017
Rebecca Kiger

The Trump administration’s top health official backed away from a presidential commission’s proposal to declare a national public health emergency to address the opioid crisis. An emergency declaration could have big implications for the Ohio Valley, a region with some of the country’s highest addiction and overdose rates.

Data Fix: Cities Seek Better Information on Opioid Epidemic

Aug 5, 2017
J. Tyler Franklin

Paramedics and police are already in the hotel room when Kyle Simpson walks in.

“What happened?” he asks.

A 37-year-old man in the room is barely conscious--just revived by the overdose reversal medication NARCAN.

Perry Bennett West Virginia Legislative Photography

U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins visited Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston today to hold a roundtable with local experts about how best to address addiction and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The roundtable was attended by about 20 health workers and community members, most of whom deal with addiction, including neonatal abstinence syndrome on an almost daily basis.

“The disease, yes disease of addiction is our most challenging public health and safety issue of our time,” Jenkins said during an opening statement.

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A new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month found a 264 percent increase in overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, tramadol, and Demerol between 2012 and 2015.

Experts think the spike is likely related to illicitly manufactured drugs, particularly fentanyl, which is often cut with heroin or cocaine, rather than pharmaceutically manufactured synthetic opioids. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is often mixed with or sold as heroin. Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, nationwide, West Virginia is known for its struggles with opioid abuse and growing rates of overdose deaths. In fact, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2015, West Virginia had the highest overdose rate in the country per capita, or in proportion with the population.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, a week ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled President Donald Trump’s travel ban could take effect, temporarily limiting travel of some people from six countries in the middle east to the United States.  While the Trump Administration argues the travel ban is in the interest of national security, opponents argue its purpose is to discriminate against Muslim nations.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, as the opioid epidemic continues devastating lives throughout our region, health officials are reporting a spike in “second wave” epidemics, like hepatitis C. Kara Lofton reports that one way to combat the epidemic may be more needle exchange programs.

We also hear from independent producer Jean Snedegar, who brings us the next installment of our series on the timber industry. This time she focuses on timber procurement.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, established in November 2014, the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy in Huntington has been paddling upstream, trying to make a dent in the on-going fight against drug addiction in the city. City officials hope a new, two-year strategic plan can continue to help them make a dent in the problem.

We also hear one more chapter in Mark Combs and Cameron Elias Williams’ Struggle to Stay story, for the time being.

The first hearing has been held in a lawsuit involving drug wholesale distributors accused of fueling West Virginia's heroin epidemic.

Tuesday in Charleston a legal team for several West Virginia counties argued damages are necessary for opioids' harmful impact on communities, alleging the firms breached their duty under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 to oversee suspicious orders of prescriptions entering the state over the past several years.

West Virginia’s highest court has ruled that evidence of illicit drugs in a newborn’s umbilical cord is sufficient to bring a child abuse proceeding against the mother and the father who knew about her drug use.

The Supreme Court says state law clearly seeks to protect a threatened or harmed child from the person inflicting the injury or one failing to meet the child’s needs.

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In Appalachian states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, the tough-on-crime policy announced Friday by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions runs counter to a recent emphasis on treatment and less prison time for low-level drug offenders.

Opioids, opioid, painkillers, perscription, narcotics, doctors
Dollar Photo Club

A southern West Virginia judge has ordered a physician to stop operating his practice as a pain clinic and prohibited him from prescribing narcotics including opioid painkillers.

Roxy Todd/ WVPB

Veterans are two times more likely than the civilian population to develop an addiction to opioids. The Veterans Health Administration, or VA, released a new set of guidelines in 2013 called The Opioid Safety Initiative, which concluded that opioids are not the best treatment for most types of chronic pain. Instead, VA doctors are encouraged to first advise their patients to try alternative therapies, like yoga, physical therapy, and chiropractic care.

Inside Appalachia's Roxy Todd spent some time at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center to learn more about the Mindful Yoga class— one of the alternative therapies they offer veterans who are suffering with chronic pain. 


Roxy Todd/ WVPB

It’s been about 20 years since the opioid epidemic started. Appalachia has been called ground zero for this crisis, and the Mountain State leads the country in drug overdose deaths. This episode of Inside Appalachia explores how the epidemic is affecting veterans, who are twice as likely to become addicted to opioids than the general, or civilian, population. 


Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Taking a pill to ease chronic pain is easy, at least at first. But it comes with side effects – the most well-known of which is probably addiction. One alternative to opioids for chronic pain is physical therapy.

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It’s been about 20 years since the opioid epidemic first exploded across Appalachia, and now doctors are shifting away from prescribing opioids for long-term pain. 

But this shift away from pills has met resistance from some  doctors and patients.

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we'll hear why addiction hit Appalachia so hard. We'll also find out what the medical community is doing to fight the pain pill epidemic.

Evzio Naloxone Auto-injector
Clark Davis / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  A new state law authorizes school nurses and other trained and authorized personnel at West Virginia schools to administer drugs to counteract opioid overdoses by students without having to first contact parents.

The bill passed unanimously by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Jim Justice comes as West Virginia recorded 844 overdose deaths last year, more than 700 involving at least one opioid such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers.

Isaac Sponaugle
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members in the House of Delegates have considered a number of bills this legislative session that increase the penalties for breaking various laws. At least three of those bills have focused on drug crimes which Republican lawmakers say is in response to the state’s substance abuse epidemic.

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