Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spread of prescription pill abuse could increase efforts to fight it, helping rural areas where it began

West Virginia has the highest rate of prescription drug overdose deaths in the U.S., and about 10 years after a prescription-pill-addiction epidemic began in Appalachia, the problem is so bad in the southern part of the state that police say they can't handle it alone, Evelyn Nieves reports for Salon. (iStock photo) Pain management clinics and "pill mills" have exploded in number, feeding the flames of abuse. When one is raided, another almost instantly takes its place. Mingo County sheriff Lonnie Hannah says there are "spinoffs of drug abuse," including murder, domestic abuse, burglaries and child neglect, that are overwhelming local law enforcement.

So much "pilling," as they call it, goes on in southern West Virginia that everyone has a story about it. They know someone who's addicted, or someone who's lost their children, or someone who's died from overdose. They also are surprised that very little people outside the region know about "pilling," Nieves reports. Now the Centers for Disease Control reports the epidemic is spreading beyond the mountains. Pockets of pill abuse exist in Orange County, Calif. and Staten Island, N.Y., and the rate of nationwide abuse has increased by 430 percent. A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states the highest rates of pill abuse exist in Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Arkansas, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

"The spread of pilling may be the saving grace for Appalachia and the other mostly poor, mostly rural parts of the country where little white pills are leveling entire communities," Nieves reports. "They offer the cautionary tale: Political leaders, health professionals and community groups in these parts who have been crying for help can show the rest of the country what can happen when pilling runs rampant." Or, as Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, boils it down: "The fact that we now have a national epidemic raises the chance that strong action will be taken to thwart it, helping the folks in rural places who are fighting it and who have been victimized by it." (Read more)

No comments: