Heroin cut with an even stronger substance like fentanyl was responsible for an appalling 26 overdoses in Huntington WV in just four hours. At one point, emergency calls came in and there were no available ambulances.
Addicts are responsible for their behavior. However, once addiction takes hold, in terms of recovery, it matters not why the addict started using drugs. It takes on a life of its own and blots out the sun and everything else.
However, when a city of 50,000 has so many addicts and so many overdoses, then this is more than personal error. What are the societal factors there that make blotting out reality with pain killers so attractive? Unemployment there is not particularly high. Yet West Virginia has the highest rate of youth drug overdoses in the country.
Part of the problem is the federal government which, after years of inaction, finally cracked down on Oxy being so easily available. Drug cartels moved in with cheap heroin and addicts simply switched drugs.
The epidemic is a reflection of the long-term stagnation of the economy, the lack of job and education prospects for the most vulnerable sections of the poor, the lack of health care and especially drug rehabilitation programs, and the impact of criminalization of addiction to painkillers such as OxyContin, which ravaged swaths of Appalachia a decade ago.
“As a public health problem, this is an epidemic of monumental proportions,” Dr. Michael Kilkenny, director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, said. “We really must stop the demand side of the equation. We must attack the issue of addiction.”