Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Huntington, West Virginia
Huntington is the second-largest city in West Virginia, with a population of just over 48,000 people. Similar to many other cities across the state, Huntington’s economy has suffered over the past decade due to the coal mining industry’s downturn, which has greatly contributed to the town’s growing addiction problem. Huntington has been truly devastated by the opioid epidemic; the community experienced 26 overdoses due to heroin in just a four-hour period in 2016.
The Heroin Crisis in Huntington
West Virginia has some of the worst heroin addiction rates in the country, and Huntington leads the state in the number of heroin overdoses. Heroin is a highly-addictive synthetic opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance extracted from the opium poppy plant. Huntington police claim that 90% of their work now relates to dealing with heroin-related offenses.
The highest per capita overdose rate and the highest per capita death rate in the country for opiates is right here in the Southern District of West Virginia. To a certain degree, Huntington has become ground zero, the epicenter of the opioid crisis.
The heroin problem emerged about five years ago when authorities cracked down on opioid “pill mills” throughout the city, as the vast majority of heroin users resorted to the drug after becoming addicted to prescription pain medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone. When their supplies were cut off and the street-market price for prescription pills rose, those suffering from opioid addiction turned to the closest thing available: heroin. Heroin is a far less expensive alternative that offers a relatively easy fix for people that can no longer afford opioid medications; however, it is also a far more addictive and damaging substance.
In 2015, there were more than 700 heroin-related overdose calls in Huntington, ranging from kids in their early teens to seniors in their late 70s. In an attempt to reduce such staggering drug statistics, the DEA piloted a new program called the 360 Strategy in which the federal agency works with local law enforcement and community groups to divert addicts into treatment rather than jail, and educate youth about the dangers of prescription drugs and heroin. Additionally, the local health department launched that state’s first syringe needle exchange, as the risk for HIV and Hepatitis C is particularly high for the city due to shared drug injection needles. Despite the stepped-up fight, overdose deaths are still relatively high and 43% of people imprisoned in Cabell County last year had a substance abuse issue so acute that they needed immediate medical attention.
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Huntington: A Hub for Drug Trafficking
In order to meet the rising demand for heroin, many drug traffickers have begun to travel to West Virginia and bring large amounts of the synthetic opiate drug in for distribution. Dealers and addicts alike from places such as Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and southern parts of West Virginia have flocked to Huntington for the prominent heroin market. Major drug trafficking organizations have now taken root in the city, some of whom are gang affiliated. Detroit and Columbus are the main sources of traffickers of heroin into Huntington and the illegal business has led to increased property crimes, visible prostitution, multiple homicides, and fatal overdoses by several addicts.
In response to the high trafficking rates within the area, local government, healthcare, and law enforcement officials have collectively founded Project Huntington – a program dedicated to lowering the demand for pharmaceutical drugs as well as disrupting the organizations that distribute prescription opioids and heroin across the state.
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Huntington Substance Abuse Statistics
In West Virginia, a resident dies from an overdose every 10 hours.
1 in 4
1 in 4 babies delivered in Huntington has been exposed to drugs before they were born.
A total of 1,476 opioid overdose incidents were reported in Cabell County in 2016, that’s a 443% increase since 2014.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
If drugs or alcohol are negatively affecting your life, there are multiple high-quality rehabilitation centers in Huntington to help you or a loved one. To receive guidance on which treatment plan or facility would be best for your personal situation, try reaching out to a dedicated treatment provider. They are here to answer any questions that you may have and help you find the best path to long-term recovery.