In recent years, West Virginia has become the most critically affected U.S. state in the opioid epidemic. Officials have debated numerous strategies to put a halt to this nation-wide emergency, including educating individuals about the dark truth of opioid use and providing assistance to those gripped with addiction. Health investigations currently circulate regarding prescription companies and their widespread distribution of painkillers to the public.
There are many factors, and theories, that pinpoint reasons why certain areas of the United States are more affected by the drug epidemic than others. While these theories vary, the effects of opioid addiction are clear. Drug charges, jail time, and worst of all, death, are real consequences that drug users in the area face.
The Numbers are Grim
According to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, almost 17,000 Americans per year are killed from prescription drug overdoses. Southern West Virginia is affected the most, with 56.3 out of 100,000 fatalities due to overdoses on opioids. Among some of the most powerful and dangerous opioids are Zohydro and Fentanyl, both of which can be used for constant and severe pain. These drugs are often easily masked in heroin and have a high risk for dependence and misuse. Zohydro, for example, contains 10 times the hydrocodone of Vicodin, and just two tablets can be enough to kill a person.
Because the chance of fatality due to opioid addiction is so high, the legal consequences of abuse are a crucial matter. Most states have a significant penalty for drug possession, and Drug Possession Laws note that West Virginia drug charges are lenient but can often be serious. Those facing a first possession charge receive a conditional discharge, or a second chance. However, a period of probation before trial must occur before a record is purged. Different laws apply for charges such as possession with intent, but all drugs are handled equally in terms of individual charges.