Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images Via STAT
The Opioid Crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing West Virginia today. The common thinking about how to stop this crisis focuses mainly focuses on doctors, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical companies. Of course stopping the access to opioids is a huge step that must be made to stopping this crisis, but pills exist in all 50 states. Shouldn't we also be looking at the factors that left West Virginia so vulnerable to addiction?
Dr. Clay Marsh, WVU's Vice President & Executive Dean of Health Sciences recently wrote a piece for the website Stat where he ties opioid addiction to several of the other issues facing working West Virginians.
Opioid addiction takes a greater toll in West Virginia than in any other state. In 2016, the last year with complete statistics, a West Virginian was dying of a drug overdose every 10 hours. As a physician who helps manage the largest medical system in West Virginia, I’ve learned that as big as the opioid addiction crisis is in our state, it is not the root problem. Instead, it is a symptom of a much larger problem, one of hopelessness, isolation, and despair.
It’s this problem that must be addressed if we’re going to create a sustainable solution to the opioid epidemic and the state’s heavy burden of chronic disease. The good news is that in doing so, we can begin to transform the health of West Virginians for the better
When West Virginia teachers go on strike demanding fair wages, coal miners are laid off, when kids see violence and abuse erupt around them, people begin to live in fear. That often pushes aside the basic building blocks of a healthy life, such as proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Taking their places are chronic stress and a mindset of scarcity.
To address the root causes of this epidemic, we need to look deeper, tap social and behavioral sciences, and transform the backward way we think about health care in the United States.
No one thing will solve all of West Virginia's problems, but it's important to know that many of them are connected. At the end of the day West Virginians just want to be able to get ahead. If our leaders in Charleston & Washington can help make that happen, it could go a long way to stopping the Opioid crisis.
For more WV Strong coverage of the WV Opiod Crisis check out Dan Heyman's "Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Deaths - So What's The Delay?"