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Prescription drug abuse bred by poverty

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Our state's lack of response to the epidemic of prescription drug abuse is shameful. Pill mills, dishonest medical professionals, unethical corporations and a lack of opportunity are robbing West Virginia of an entire generation, and it seems those with the power to do anything are sitting on their hands. 

Already bleak, the news is only getting much worse. We now know we have the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. A report released earlier this week by the non-profit Trust for America's Health says nearly 30 per 100,000 people died of fatal overdoses in 2010. The majority of those cases involved prescription drugs. According to the report, that's an increase of 605 percent since 1999.

The numbers are as tragic as they are mind-blowing, but when you think about it on a more intimate level, your heart truly breaks. 

What these statistics don't show us are the grieving families left to mourn the loss of a loved one or the broken communities with dwindling resources forced to contend with the ravages of large-scale addiction and the sinister forces of the drug trade. These are people, not just numbers issued in a report. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends — human beings no longer with us because of a ruthless, merciless scourge. We know this, yet, for truly unexplainable reasons, our elected leaders have failed to mount any kind of significant defense. 

We can see this state's future crumbling before our eyes, yet we do so little to try to make it better. Law enforcement is doing all it can, but this is bigger than street crimes. We need to take a holistic, broader view of the issue.

We know poverty and lack of prospects breed drug abuse. For so many in this state, gaining meaningful, decent employment is a dream. That lack of hope leads directly to what we see today. 

A thriving, vibrant economy is not a panacea and, as a society, we're always going to battle our darker elements, but giving someone an option to better themselves is solid defense against hopelessness. 

Making the Mountain State a place where prosperity can flourish will not magically make things better, but giving our people something to strive for is how we drive out this beast of addiction. 

We have such potential and when given a chance we can compete with anyone, but a better West Virginia is a West Virginia free of drug abuse.