Coal miners and drug addiction


Hard drug abuse is becoming a major problem among coal miners in West Virginia. The work is dangerous, many got addicted after suffering a serious injury on the job which led to pain killer prescriptions from MD’s. Then, when that wasn’t enough, the street offered more.

Some drive 100 miles each day to a methadone clinic. But it’s for-profit, which makes some uneasy.

Several Tazewell officials want to shut the center down or force it to move, seeing its for-profit business model and treatment mission as a conflict of interest. According to the clinic’s policy, patients can buy methadone as long as they want; detoxification is voluntary.

Does the clinic offer any services to help addicts get clean? If not, then charging $12.50 a day for methadone would seem conflicted indeed. Support groups, counseling, medical care, and detox facilities need to be available. Substituting one addictive drug from another is not a long-term solution.

The clinic’s counseling staff members say that many patients need to be on some sort of drug to cope with severe, long-term pain and that methadone has made them functional. And for those who lack insurance or access to more personalized care, it is often the only affordable option.

This is the crux of the matter. Poor working class whites in rural West Virginia don’t get the help that those better-off in larger cities do because such assistance is not available. It needs to be.