The data came from an analysis of WVU-affiliated hospitals and outpatient centers; lead researcher Sara Warfield and her colleagues looked for how often the facilities admitted adults for prescription-painkiller and heroin overdoses between 2008 and 2015. The prescription-monitoring database was mandated in 2012, and that year heroin overdoses among young adults began spiking "significantly." Kentucky has experienced a similar pattern.
The study isn’t deep enough to prove cause and effect, but it jibes with other research suggesting that increasing prescription monitoring without taking steps to help people overcome addiction triggers an increase in illicit opioid use. "Another way to think about this idea is that to solve a drug problem, you can't only dry up the drug supply," Diep reports. "You also have to reduce drug demand." The researchers recommend more needle exchange programs, naloxone availability, and drug treatment programs, and note that West Virginia has done all three in recent years.