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‘Perfect storm’ led to W.Va. heroin epidemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s a frequently cited statistic: West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.

In Kanawha County alone, emergency responders say they are seeing an average of two overdoses a day, according to Chaplain Mike Jarrett of the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority. Police say heroin and prescription drugs are the main reasons.

“It isn’t a car wreck,” Jarrett said. “It isn’t a heart attack. This is self-inflicted, and these people are suffering. Every time we run something like this, especially with young people, people that are in such emotional crisis, it just carves a little bit of that medic’s heart out.”

Kim Miller, director of corporate development and an addiction specialist at the Prestera Center, said that “a perfect storm” led to this point.

Law enforcement and healthcare professionals consistently note that the current heroin epidemic stems from the abuse of prescription painkillers, which create a similar high.

But delving into how and why West Virginians got addicted to painkillers in the first place, or why certain people are more susceptible to a drug’s influence, gets more complicated…

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