The Overdose Capital of America

All across the United States, we hear daily news of the opioid crisis in our country. Nowhere has this epidemic hit harder than in the small town of Huntington, West Virginia. It’s become known as the overdose capital of America. On a normal day, Huntington’s overdose death rate is ten times the national average. But August 15, 2016 goes down in history, as the tiny town saw 28 of their friends and family members overdose on heroin in a single afternoon. Those 28 were a small fraction of the 773 opioid overdoses that occurred between January and September of that year.

The city is home to 49,000. An estimated 12,000 of those citizens have a substance use disorder of some kind. As the epidemic takes hold on Huntington, even the smallest members of the community are victims. At Cabell Huntington Hospital, one in every ten babies born has to suffer through a withdrawal from some sort of drug. That’s 15 times the national average.

Huntington’s limited, small-town resources are strained. Medical personnel, emergency responders, government workers and social services are overwhelmed with the task of responding to emergency situations. With all of the resources being poured into reversing overdoses, there’s not much left to treat addiction. The few treatment centers in Huntington cannot possibly tend to the needs of 12,000 addicts. And in many small, conservative towns like this one, spiritually based programs are strongly favored, to the exclusion of evidence-based medical treatment, further complicating the search for a solution.

The crisis in Huntington, the overdose capital, is a scary glimpse into what happens when addiction takes over a community. That’s why it’s so important that lawmakers, treatment centers, service providers and concerned citizens to work together to combat the opioid epidemic.


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