West Virginia Addiction Treatment
Over the past several years, West Virginia has been in the spotlight for its alarming rates of heroin abuse. In 2014, the state had the highest rate of drug-related deaths in the nation. Heroin and opioids are the primary substances that play a huge role in the number of overdoses.
Heroin-related overdoses in West Virginia have increased nearly five-fold since 2010.
Soon after West Virginia tightened its prescription medication laws, many residents turned to heroin as a less expensive alternative. Major drug trafficking organizations in other states began transporting heroin to areas across West Virginia, predominantly around rural regions. Some of the most common transit methods used to move drugs around the state include private and commercial vehicles, passenger trains and, sometimes, boats along inland waterways. Since West Virginia does not have an international airport, planes are less likely to be used in drug trafficking schemes.
The growth and decline of the mining business is another factor in West Virginia’s heroin epidemic. Long known as “coal country,” the state’s mining jobs are labor intensive and have increased risks of injury. To treat injuries quickly, health providers have prescribed high-dose or extended-release painkillers which have a greater chance for dependency. However, in the last couple decades, mining jobs have started to diminish. This has caused high unemployment rates, hovering around 6.5 percent. A significant amount of job loss has only fueled the abuse of opioids and other illicit substances.
In a mining camp, there aren’t a lot of doctors. That doctor is going to be more likely to opt for the quick fix and give people pills to fix their pain and get them back into the mine, rather than give them rest or therapy or those things that can actually cure pain.”
As the number of substance abuse programs grows, more West Virginia residents are seeking treatment.
While West Virginia recovery facilities treat a wide range of substance addictions, the most commonly cited are:
Oftentimes, West Virginia rehab facilities can be far away for individuals who reside in rural areas. This has led state officials to focus on ways to expand the accessibility of treatment centers in order to help residents in communities both large and small.
Laws Of West Virginia Drug Use
In West Virginia, the possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) involves serious criminal charges. Legal penalties typically depend on the type of drug and the quantity. Subsequent offenses usually have harsher penalties such as increased time in jail or fines.
West Virginia has a conditional discharge law for first offenses involving illegal drugs. Conditional discharge allows you to serve a probation sentence rather than time in jail. Afterwards, your legal charges will be dropped.
In many cases, possession of a narcotic drug is a felony and can come with 15 years in jail, plus a fine up to $15,000. For offenses involving non-narcotic drugs, sentencing is less severe and can range from one to five years in jail, in addition to a set fine.
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Marijuana Laws In West Virginia
Both recreational and medical marijuana are illegal in West Virginia. If you are found possessing, distributing or manufacturing marijuana, you will face severe legal penalties. First offenders, however, are able to opt for probation time rather than jail. After successfully completing your probation terms, the charge will be dropped from your criminal record.
|Offense||Criminal Charge||Potential Sentence|
|Any amount||Misdemeanor||90 days – 6 months in jail and $1,000 fine|
|Sale or Distribution|
|Any amount||Felony||1 – 5 years in jail and $15,000 fine|
|Trafficking marijuana into WV||Felony||1 – 5 years in jail and $15,000 fine|
|To a minor or within 1,000 feet of a school||Felony||2 years in jail|
Other penalties are in place for tampering with a drug screening test as well as selling drug paraphernalia. For example, attempting to manipulate a drug screening test in any manner is a misdemeanor with up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine. In addition, operating an illegal drug paraphernalia business is a misdemeanor and involves six months to one year in jail, plus a $5,000 fine. Drug paraphernalia encompasses water pipes, bongs, roach clips, cocaine freebase kits, scales and other equipment used in the production or manufacturing of illegal substances.
Addiction Treatment Laws In West Virginia
A number of U.S. states, including West Virginia, have enacted harm reduction laws in an effort to reduce the negative impact of substance abuse on individuals and communities. Instead of forcing individuals to abstain from an addiction, harm reduction laws provide ways to help protect their health and safety. Laws may consist of syringe exchange programs (SEPs), naloxone laws, 911 Good Samaritan laws, prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and methadone clinics.
Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) In West Virginia
West Virginia has one of the highest rates of hepatitis C in the nation. The outbreak is largely due to the increasing number of heroin users. One of the most common ways to transmit hepatitis C is by sharing contaminated needles.
The West Virginia syringe exchange program (SEP) started in September 2015. The program aims to reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C which are common among injecting drug users (IDUs). There are currently four needle exchange programs in West Virginia: Charleston, Huntington, Morgantown and Vienna. Lawmakers are encouraging counties statewide to start similar programs in their local communities.
West Virginia syringe exchange programs (SEPs) provide injecting drug users (IDUs) an opportunity to exchange dirty needles for clean, sterile ones. If an individual is ready to seek help, SEPs also offer referrals for treatment, workforce solutions and affordable housing.
Naloxone Laws In West Virginia
As part of Senate Bill 335, West Virginia lawmakers allow first responders to access naloxone. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that helps reverse the harmful effects caused by an opioid overdose. The bill, approved in 2015, gives first responders the ability to administer naloxone in emergency situations.
Administering Naloxone to a person suspected of an opioid overdose allows time for first responders to transport that patient to a hospital to receive appropriate medical attention. It’s one life-saving tool that first responders can have to immediately help someone that may be in a life-threatening situation.
After seeing the positive results of first responders administering naloxone, the West Virginia legislature passed another bill in March 2016 allowing pharmacies to dispense naloxone without a prescription. Starting June 10, 2016, residents across the state are able to obtain naloxone. Now, family members, friends and other individuals can carry naloxone – a law expected to save many lives in the event of an overdose.
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program
Illegal substances are transported through West Virginia in a variety of ways. In an effort to stop major drug trafficking organizations, several West Virginia counties are part of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. Through the program, multiple agencies – local, state and federal – work together on different initiatives to combat serious drug operations.
Some of the current Appalachia HIDTA projects include:
- Huntington Violent Crimes/Drug Task Force: The city of Huntington has one of the highest rates of overdoses in the state. To reduce the harm caused to the city’s neighborhoods, the Drug Task Force focuses on distributing transit involving cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and diverted pharmaceuticals.
- U.S. 119 Drug and Violent Crime Task Force: Identifies initiatives on four primary drugs impacting the region including cannabis, OxyContin, cocaine and cocaine base.
- West Virginia DEA HIDTA Task Force: Handles local, multi-state and international mid- to upper-level drug cases.
Treatment Centers in West Virginia
West Virginia has seen a steady increase in the number of addiction treatment programs. While many rehab programs are privately owned and operated, the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities oversees seven state-owned facilities.
Many West Virginia treatment centers accept private insurance plans; however, financial assistance is available to those who are unable to afford rehab or are without insurance.
When exploring your treatment options, consider both in-state and out-of-state facilities. Traveling for treatment can have many benefits including specialized therapies, as well as a greater selection of amenities and activities. Making a list of the services most important to you will help in narrowing down the selection to decide on a treatment option.
Ready to get started on your road to recovery? Contact a treatment provider today.
Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.
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