OxyContin’s Hold Over America’s Rural Areas

The OxyContin epidemic in the United States started during the 1990s. Then, the maker of the drug, Purdue Pharma, began heavily promoting the drug to doctors in places such as eastern Kentucky. In that part of the state, coal mining is common. Workers in the industry suffer injuries and have turned to drugs such as OxyContin to help suppress the pain. However, it’s not just Kentucky where OxyContin has been abused. “Hillbilly heroin” or “poor man’s heroin,” other names for OxyContin, is abused in other places, such as West Virginia and Virginia. OxyContin addiction signs appear in Appalachian communities and other areas within the United States.

In Justice and Gilbert, West Virginia, four out of ten adults were addicted to OxyContin in the early 2000s. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World noted that there’s one Appalachian community where OxyContin addiction was responsible for 80 percent of the crime. Years later, West Virginia still grappled with the problem, as the state reported around thirty-four overdose deaths for every 100,000 state residents in the years 2011-13.

OxyContin addiction signs are clearly widespread throughout many American communities. A group of researchers led by Dr. Katherine M. Keyes illustrated these reasons in the American Journal of Public Health. Keyes and her colleagues listed four reasons opioid abuse is so great in rural areas:

  1. Doctors prescribe more opioid prescriptions in rural areas, which allow for black markets to take shape.
  2. There are great numbers of young people leaving rural areas for urban areas.
  3. There are increasing numbers of rural social connections within the small communities. This could allow drugs to be moved and distributed quite easily.
  4. The economically depressed conditions of rural areas could create conditions that prompt Americans to turn to drug abuse to cope with their quality of life, which could cause OxyContin addiction signs to occur.

Since 1995, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has operated the Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) program to fight drug-related crime that might occur across the country, especially in rural areas where drugs are trafficked. The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also offers a health treatment services locator that allows people to find their closest treatment center. Rural municipality police have the option of contacting MET for assistance if drug crimes become too violent. As the rural landscape of the United States changes, with OxyContin addiction signs becoming all the more normal, U.S. authorities will have to decide how they can best address this growing epidemic.
class=”western”>About the author: Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery and the entertainment industry.

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