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prescription drugs

Picture of Bill Macfadyen

The nation’s largest — and latest — study of illicit drugs found an explosion of marijuana use among Americans age 12 or older in 2010. The National Survey on Drug Use & Health concluded that marijuana users are largely to blame for the continued increase in illegal drug use, which includes the nonmedical use of prescription medications.

Picture of Bill Macfadyen

It’s not a pretty picture. Just as it is in our country, drug abuse is out of control in our community. In what will come as a surprise to many readers, however, the problem is not limited to illegal narcotics like cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Some of the most often abused drugs — and the most addictive — are perfectly legal medications prescribed by one of the professionals you trust on the most personal of levels, your doctor.

Picture of Bill Macfadyen

Police kicked in the door of a Lompoc motel room where they suspected drug activity was taking place, and officers swarmed in to arrest the two people inside. Syringes were scattered about the floor. A couple had been injecting the prescription medication methadone, a drug used to treat severe pain.

Picture of Bill Macfadyen

Many Americans might cite cocaine or heroin if asked to identify the country’s leading cause of overdose deaths.

Wrong answer.

Picture of Emily Hagedorn

The most powerful moment for me while reporting on a recent project on prescription drug abuse deaths was seeing the Rev. Donnie Coots standing among the ruins of his once thriving drug rehabilitation center.

Picture of Alison Knezevich

Prescription drug abuse is growing nationwide, but West Virginia was one of the first places hit by the problem. When I picked this topic, I didn't realize how complex it was. The drugs are widely available. Doctors are struggling to treat pain with effective medications without supplying drug abusers. And prescription drug crimes have proven difficult to prosecute.

This is the first in a four-part series examining prescription drug abuse in West Virginia.

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