Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 11-10-2017


Purpose: The purpose of this research was to examine and analyze the cause of the opioid epidemic and subsequent responses to it in the state of West Virginia.

Methods: The methodology for this paper mainly followed a literature review of 37 articles from 2009-2017 followed by a semi-structured interview with a licensed physician in the state of West Virginia.

Results: The U.S. is facing a nationwide epidemic, with the epicenter being West Virginia with the highest rates of overdoses accounting for 41.5 deaths for 100,000 people among the 33,091 deaths in 2015. The number of people injecting drugs has increased from 36% in 2005 to 54% in 2015. A grant of $5.8 million was awarded to West Virginia for the State Opioid Response for providing more than 4,000 of the two-dose kits that were dispersed to high-priority areas. The total U.S cost of prescription opioid abuse in 2011 has been estimated at $25 billion, and criminal-justice-system costs to $5.1 billion. But the largest cost has been related to the workplace, which has accounted for $25.6 billion, in the form of lost earnings and employment. The reasons for this opioid epidemic incidence in WV have been a combination of sociocultural factors, including a depressed economy, low employment, lack of education, and a high rate of prescribing and dispensing of prescription opioids. These strategies were evaluated through a systematic literature review and semi-structured interview that displayed a broad array of tactics used in West Virginia that have struggled to keep up with the rate of related opioid overdoses.

Conclusion: The current efforts implemented to address the opioid epidemic have led to increased education and awareness about overdose reversal and safe prescribing practices. While the overdose rate continues to climb, the number of strategies employed is increasing. Over the next few years West Virginia will spend time initiating new strategies and expanding upon old ones with the addition of federal funding.