Editorial: Reducing drug overdose deaths in West Virginia



West Virginia leads the nation in drug overdose deaths per capita. In the past 15 years, the rate has jumped sevenfold.

While much attention has focused on meth abuse -- which is a serious problem -- the overwhelming number of deaths are from prescribed drugs, especially anti-depressants and painkillers.

This reflects a state that leads the nation in prescription medications with an average of 18.4 prescriptions per year per person in West Virginia.

The Trust for America’s Health lobbying group made 10 recommendations for reducing prescription drug abuse. West Virginia follows eight of them. Lawmakers are expected to take up the other two next year: a Good Samaritan Law to cover those who help others who are overdosing, and expansion of those who can inject a prescription drug to counteract an overdose.

But more needs to be done. This week, Kanawha County Sheriff John Rutherford opened the drop off for old pills at the sheriff’s office downtown at 5 Goshorn St., across from the federal courthouse. From 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. weekdays, people can ring the doorbell and have a deputy take their unused and unwanted medications. This will reduce drug theft.

“It’s a common crime in Kanawha County, one we see every week,” Rutherford said. “People need a secure place to put these prescriptions.”

The problem is so pervasive that it even affects the governor’s family. Also on Tuesday, Carl Tomblin, the governor’s brother, appeared before U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver to enter a guilty plea to a single count of distributing oxymorphone, a prescription painkiller.

The morning he appeared in court, the governor’s brother tested positive for unprescribed Valium.

Drugs save lives when used properly, but they kill when used improperly. Proper disposal of unwanted pills helps.

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