From the forests of the Appalachian Mountains to the beautiful Shenandoah River, West Virginia is rich with natural splendor. Despite this beauty, West Virginia’s rural and urban areas witness some of the nation’s highest rates of drug abuse, addiction, and overdose fatalities.
The nation’s opioid epidemic is at the heart of this problem, and for the growing number of residents and communities who experience these dangers, access to comprehensive addiction can be a frontline defense against these tragedies.
The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that one in 10 West Virginia residents struggle with addiction. With numbers, this high, countless individuals, families and West Virginia communities face this battle every day. Providing comprehensive addiction treatment options to West Virginia residents helps to fight the destruction caused by drug addiction and alcohol addiction.
West Virginia Substance Abuse Statistics
In 2016, the highest drug-overdose death rates in America were found in West Virginia, according to the most recent data available from the CDC.
At 52 deaths per 100,000 people, this number was:
- almost 33 percent higher than Ohio, the second-ranked state with 39.1 deaths per 100,000 people
- nearly 163 percent greater than the national average, which in 2016 was 19.8 deaths per 100,000 people
In West Virginia, substance use disorders range from those caused by alcohol to ones rooted in illicit drugs like cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and meth. State residents also abuse a variety of prescription drugs, including benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax), ADHD stimulant medications (Adderall, Ritalin) and opioid painkillers (OxyContin, Vicodin).
While all of these drugs can profoundly damage a person’s life, opioid drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers have caused a statewide crisis.
The Opioid Epidemic And Rising Overdose Death Rates
Frequently referred to as ground zero of the American opioid epidemic, West Virginia had the highest rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in the nation in 2016. A recent analysis estimates that the opioid epidemic costs the state’s economy roughly $8.8 billion a year.
To put this in perspective, in 2016:
- 733 lives lost were lost to opioid-related overdoses
- at a rate of 43.4 deaths per 100,000 people, these deaths were 2,311 percent higher than they were in 1999
This dramatic jump is due to increased heroin and synthetic opioid (including fentanyl) overdose deaths. Specifically, from 2010:
- synthetic opioid-related deaths more than quadrupled, from 102 to 435 deaths
- heroin-related deaths rose from 28 to 235 deaths
Prescription Painkiller Abuse
Many experts believe that the rising rates of opioid abuse and overdose are linked to the high number of opioids prescribed across the country. At 110 opioid prescriptions per 100 people, the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions is so high that every state resident could have their own prescription.
In certain rural areas, this opioid prescription rate is astronomically higher:
- From 2008 to 2015, 20.8 million painkillers were distributed to Williamson, West Virginia, a town with just over 3,000 residents
- In nearby Kermit, in 2008, a single drug wholesaler delivered the equivalent of 5,624 pills for every resident—including children
West Virginia Addiction Awareness Programs
In response to the rising opioid crisis, West Virginia has created several statewide programs that focus on decreasing and preventing substance abuse.
Opioid Response Plan for the State of West Virginia
Experts from three major universities recommended an opioid response plan based on state data, public input and national best practices for substance abuse. This plan focuses on prevention, early intervention, treatment, overdose reversal and support for the families of people who abuse drugs.
Statewide Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup
This statewide initiative is made up of 26 organizational and individual members, including the West Virginia Bureau for Children and Families, the National Guard and West Virginia State Police. This group uses data to create policies that address substance abuse prevention at the community, county and state levels.
Additional outreach efforts include needle exchange programs throughout the state to decrease disease transmission and the distribution of free naloxone (Narcan) kits that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
West Virginia Addiction Treatment
A person’s mental and physical health, relationships and job can all be damaged by addiction. The most effective West Virginia addiction treatment programs address these needs to ensure patients build the strongest foundation for their recovery. Addiction treatment plans may include some or all of the following levels of care.
Addiction changes the way the brain works in ways that prevent some people from realizing that they need help for their addiction. In these circumstances, an intervention may help them to acknowledge their addiction and commit to seeking treatment.
Professional interventionists plan and moderate the intervention. Once a person decides to seek treatment, the interventionist will have a plan ready to get them into treatment promptly.
Drug And Alcohol Detox Programs
When someone stops drinking or doing drugs without professionally guided medical care, cravings and withdrawal symptoms can quickly spiral out of control. West Virginia drug and alcohol detox programs provide compassionate medical support so a person can safely, comfortably and successfully progress through detox.
Without the 24-hour care provided by a professional drug and alcohol detox program, a person is more likely to relapse as a means to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. To protect a person from these risks and to encourage the body to heal, a variety of detox programs use medications to decrease or prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Inpatient Addiction Treatment
West Virginia inpatient addiction treatment works to eliminate negative mindsets and behaviors that threaten sobriety. Through therapy, a person can begin building positive behaviors and life skills that support long-term recovery. This process can be challenging, and for many people, these goals are more easily achieved through the support and residential setting of an inpatient drug rehab program.
High-quality inpatient drug rehab programs build each client’s treatment program around their particular needs. Treatment can include addressing any relationship, job, educational, health or medical problems caused or aggravated by addiction. Many treatment therapies teach coping and stress-reduction skills to help a person handle these areas of their life in a more healthy and productive way.
Outpatient Addiction Treatment
During outpatient drug rehab, a person returns home after treatment each day. Some people may choose to live in a sober-living home during this time.
While this flexibility is beneficial for some people, for others it can open the door to triggers and relapse. Traditional outpatient and intensive outpatient programs may work best as step-down programs, used by patients after an inpatient program to encourage a commitment to recovery principles as they adapt to the demands of sober living.
Aftercare And Alumni Services
West Virginia aftercare and alumni support services provide a person with ongoing access to a recovery support network in the time after treatment.
Aftercare programs in West Virginia may include:
- Alumni mentorship programs
- Peer support groups
- Self-improvement programs
- Sober-living homes
Some aftercare programs last a few months to a year, while others may last all throughout a person’s recovery.
Specialized West Virginia Addiction Treatment Programs
To better provide individualized care, West Virginia addiction treatment may include options for specialized treatment services, including:
Medication-assisted treatment combines medications with behavioral therapies to help a person achieve and maintain a sober life. For opioid addiction, buprenorphine (Suboxone) and methadone are used to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Acamprosate (Campral), Disulfiram (Antabuse) and naltrexone (Vivitrol) may be prescribed to help a person remain abstinent from alcohol.
Many men and women feel more comfortable pursuing treatment in a gender-specific program that addresses recovery needs related to gender. LGBTQ persons may choose care in an LGBTQ-friendly treatment program.
More than one out of five West Virginia adults suffered from depression in 2016—the second-highest depression rate in the nation.
For people who face depression or any other mental illness alongside addiction, access to dual-diagnosis treatment is crucial. These programs use a combination of behavioral therapies and counseling to treat both conditions in one personalized approach.
West Virginia Addiction Treatment Therapies
Some programs approach treatment from a traditional, 12-step model, while others embrace an approach that focuses more heavily on mind-body-spirit wellness. In either case, people typically achieve better outcomes when involved in peer support groups and therapy.
Research-based behavioral therapies can help a person grow emotionally and gain control of their decision-making process. To encourage healing across a person’s life, these therapies may be delivered in individual, group and family settings.
These research-based behavioral therapies may include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Motivational interviewing
Many people experience better treatment outcomes when traditional therapies are combined with complementary therapies for a holistic approach to healing. Complementary therapies help a person to manage stress and rebuild self-confidence, two factors that support balanced, sober living.
Complementary therapies may include:
- Adventure or wilderness therapies
- Art therapy
- Equine therapy
- Mindfulness and stress management practices
To help a person’s mind and body heal, even more, a number of facilities offer clients personalized nutritional guidance and exercise classes.
How To Pay For West Virginia Addiction Treatment
Many people use health insurance to cover the cost of treatment. A person’s copay, deductible, and out-of-pocket maximum will be dependent on their plan.
In West Virginia, the following health insurance companies may offer behavioral health care coverage:
- Aetna Better Health of West Virginia
- Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia
A variety of financial assistance programs exist to help a person pay for substance abuse treatment beyond health insurance.
The following options may offer greater financial freedom to pursue the best treatment program for their needs:
- Scholarships or grants
- Personal loans
- Assistance from family and friends
- Financing options or payment plans
- Income-based sliding-scale fees
Treatment Program Length
Medically supported drug and alcohol detox programs last from a few days to several weeks, depending on the severity of the chemical dependency. Once any physical dependence has been broken and withdrawal symptoms have stabilized, long-term sobriety can be reinforced through participation in a drug rehab program. Short- and long-term programs exist, and treatment lengths range from 30 days to a year or more. Typically, the longer a person can stay in treatment, the greater the benefit.
Traveling For Addiction Treatment
Choosing a program away from a person’s community can make it easier to focus on recovery. Traveling to treatment allows a person to become more fully immersed in the therapeutic community formed during rehab. These positive influences and increased privacy can help a person to stay strong and focused on their recovery.
Addiction Campuses offers compassionate, research-based treatment in several states across the country. Our highly trained treatment specialists can help individuals and their families find the best care for their needs.Article Sources
Drug Enforcement Administration - https://www.justthinktwice.gov/westvirginia/facts#ftn1
National Institute on Drug Abuse - https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-summaries-by-state/west-virginia-opioid-summary
West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources - http://www.wvdhhr.org/bph/hsc/pubs/brfss/2016/BRFSS2016.pdf