Drugs are a serious problem in the state of West Virginia. In fact, approximately 8.4% of residents use illicit drugs on a regular basis.

That being said, the state has poor health standards. In 2017, it was ranked 46th in overall health. Furthermore, about 17% of residents can not afford the necessary healthcare and 23% of adults do not have a primary care physician.

As a result, drugs and alcohol have hit the state especially hard. In fact, a 2018 analysis found that it ranked: 

  • #4 in overall drug problems.
  • #1 in fatal overdoses per capita.

As you can see, the statistics are grim. So, let’s take a closer look at the top five most used drugs in the state of West Virginia.

Prescription Painkillers

The state is ground zero for the greatest public health crisis to ever hit our country: the opioid epidemic.

Opioids essentially come in three basic forms: prescription painkillers, “street drugs” (heroin), or synthetics (Fentanyl). This opioid epidemic began with the overprescription and abuse of painkillers. This trend of overprescription was very prevalent in the state.

That being said, let’s take a look at some related figures:

  • West Virginia has the third highest rate of painkiller prescriptions: 137.6 per 100 persons. That is nearly double the national average of 82.5 per 100.
  • From 2010 to 2017, drug wholesalers flooded the state with approximately 433 million pills.
  • Another prescription painkiller called Gabapentin is also being widely abused. Approximately 4.6 million pills were prescribed and consumed in 2016 alone. As a result, it may soon become a controlled substance.


Recent research indicates that the state has the highest rate of opioid addiction in the country (12.9 per 1000). Furthermore, the street drugs and synthetics are absolutely ravaging the state. Left and right, families are being torn apart as users are dying in droves.

Let’s look over some sobering statistics:

  • There were 833 fatal overdoses in 2017. This comes to a rate of 49.6 deaths per 100,000 persons. This is three times higher than the national rate of 14.6. 
  • The fatal overdose rate has doubled since the year 2010. 
  • According to public health officials, certain counties estimate that 10% of residents are addicted. 
  • The percentage of users who inject has risen from 36% in 2005 to 54% in 2015.


Stimulants are a general class of drugs that includes meth and cocaine. Although the opioid epidemic has been getting more attention, it appears as if stimulants are making a major comeback in West Virginia. Furthermore, their sale and consumption have been linked to an increase in violent crimes.

This is certainly alarming! Let’s examine some relevant figures:

  • The state Health Statistics Center reported that from 2014 to 2017 fatal overdoses increased a whopping 500%.
  • In the Northwest region of the state, seizures increased by 408% from 2017 to 2019. 
  • The state is ranked in the top ten nationally in terms of stimulant abuse in residents aged 18 to 25. 


It’s not just illicit drugs that cause problems in West Virginia! In fact, alcohol has remained a serious issue for years. The fact that it is legal and culturally accepted means that it does not get as much negative attention.

However, consider the following statistics:

  • According to the CDC, excessive drinking causes on average 660 deaths per year. 
  • Over 10% of adults and 20% of high school students binge drank in 2011. 
  • Excessive alcohol use cost the state over $1 billion in the year 2006. 


This type of prescription medication is used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Currently, there are counterfeit versions that are usually smuggled from secret labs overseas. This form is especially dangerous because it may include other potent drugs like Fentanyl. 

Let’s look at this problem a little more closely:

  • The state prescription rate is nearly double the national rate (71.9 per 100 versus 37.4 per 100). 
  • The number of fatal overdoses increased 4.3 times from 2002 to 2015. 
  • A 2014 report concluded that the risk of hospitalization or death when using these pills was over 20%. If they’re mixed with other pills or alcohol, then this risk increases to 55%. 

Get Help for Addiction in West Virginia

As you can see, drug and alcohol addiction is a serious problem in the state. That being said, It won’t just miraculously go away without treatment. This is because addiction is a disease, and like any other disease it requires medical treatment. So, if you or a loved one is battling addiction, make sure you treat it effectively. Call your nearest rehab facility right away and start treatment! 


  1. DEA Intelligence Report. “The West Virginia Drug Situation”. May 2017
  2. United Health Foundation. America’s Health Rankings. “Annual Report”. 2017
  3. Wallet Hub. “Drug Use by State: 2019’s Problem Areas”. May 13, 2019
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “West Virginia Opioid Summary”. March 2019
  5. Health Care Management. “The Opioid Epidemic in West Virginia”. 2019 April/June
  6. Risk Management and Healthcare Policy. “Gabapentin use, abuse, and the US opioid epidemic”. 2018
  7. American Journal of Public Health. “National and State Treatment Need and Capacity for Opioid Agonist Medication-Assisted Treatment”. 2015
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “West Virginia Opioid Summary”. March 2019
  9. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services – Bureau for Public Health. “2016 West Virginia Overdose Fatality Analysis”. 2017
  10. NBC WSAZ. “Police: Crack Use on the Rise in Huntington”. November 07, 2014
  11. Charleston Gazette-Mail. “Meth-related overdose deaths hit record number in WV”. December 02, 2017
  12. The Winchester Star. “Meth use, seizures skyrocketing in region”. October 04, 2019
  13. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Prevention Status Report – 2013. Excessive Alcohol Use – West Virginia”
  14. The Register-Herald. “Anxiety and nerve medication abuse increasing in West Virginia”. December 5, 2017
  15. Charleston Gazette-Mail. “Fake fentanyl-laced ‘Xanax’ suspected in WV”
  16. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Benzodiazepines in Combination with Opioid Pain Relievers or Alcohol: Greater Risk of More Serious ED Visit Outcomes.” 2014

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