Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Morgantown, West Virginia
Morgantown, West Virginia is situated along the banks of the Monongahela River and home to West Virginia University. As the county seat of Monongalia County, Morgantown is located in one of the most populous counties in the state. The high population of both students and residents has led to a large amount of substance use disorders within the city, particularly those concerning alcohol and opioids.
Alcohol Abuse in Morgantown
Monongalia County ranks 1st in all of West Virginia for binge drinking. Known once as “coal country,” many West Virginians have suffered with the economic decline of coal mining. Those that are unemployed have a significantly higher tendency to abuse alcohol compared to others, as many turn to drinking to soothe the uncertainties of life and any financial burdens. The percentage of alcohol dependence for Monongalia County is more than double, almost triple, the state average.
Students at West Virginia University also contribute to Morgantown’s high levels of alcohol use. College is often the time when young people begin to engage in substance abuse, and Morgantown is home to the largest university in the state. Many students turn to drugs and/or alcohol as a way to cope with the pressures of college life or to fit in. Fraternities and sororities also often have new members drink copious amounts of alcohol as a rite of passage or part of ritualistic hazing, which can lead to alcohol poisoning and even death. In 2014, a West Virginia student died with a blood-alcohol level of more than six times the legal limit after a suspected case of fraternity hazing.
Additionally, WVU is one of the few college teams that sells alcohol at football events, and many spectators feel conflicted that such a policy could encourage underage drinking and alcohol abuse. Because of its college town culture, the residents of Morgantown seem to have a more accepting attitude towards drinking than the rest of West Virginia. In Monongalia County, only 40% of the population perceived having five or more drinks of an alcoholic beverage once or twice a week as “a great risk.”
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The Opioid Epidemic and WVU Treatment
In response to the growing number of substance use disorders among the student and general population of Morgantown, WVU is making it a focus to provide adequate treatment for both city and state residents. In the past, the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry concentrated mainly on alcohol and illicit substance abuse, but is now switching focus to a much bigger threat: opioids. Opioids are a classification of drugs that are derived from, or a synthetic version of, opium. Opioids are considered to be both extremely addictive and easily accessible, as many prescribed pain management medications are opioids. The entire country is currently undergoing a national epidemic, as opioids were responsible for over 75% of all overdose deaths in the United States in 2016.
West Virginia leads the nation in overdose death rates, Hepatitis B and C rates, and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome rates, which can all be linked back to opioid abuse. WVU has instituted a combative program model called COAT: Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Treatment. The service program provides a comprehensive treatment approach to opioid addiction by using medication-assisted treatment, such as suboxone, in combination with psychotherapy, peer recovery programs, and complementary medicine, such as yoga or meditation.
Additionally, WVU has funded a new inpatient residential drug treatment facility in Monongalia County that will be the first of its kind in the state. WVU Medicine will lease and operate the facility, which will have 32 residential treatment beds and 12 detox beds. The University hopes to lead West Virginia in the fight against addiction and that others will follow suit.
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At-Risk Youth in Morgantown
West Virginia leads the nation in children removed from the home and is 48th in children in congregate care. Officials are contributing the increase of misplaced children in part to the drug epidemic, as about 80% of children being removed are coming from homes with substance abuse issues. Children going into the West Virginia foster-care system are younger with more physical and behavioral issues than ever previously seen before.
In addition to factors such as drug/alcohol accessibility, things like abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction significantly raises a young individual’s probability to abuse drugs and alcohol. Underage drinking in those aged 12-20 is significantly higher for both alcohol use and binge alcohol use in Monongalia County than the state average. Additionally, adolescents have a higher percentage of illicit drug use in Monongalia County when surveyed compared to the rest of West Virginia.
Finding Treatment in Morgantown
Addiction is a disease and can happen to anyone. If you are an individual struggling with addiction in the Morgantown, West Virginia area there are multiple resources available to you. WVU’s treatment program services are located right in town and there are additionally countless rehabilitation facilities across the state of West Virginia. If you’re ready to end your battle with addiction, contact a dedicated treatment provider today to learn more about your options.