Drug abuse once meant illegal substances like heroin and cocaine. Today medicines aimed at easing ailments are becoming part of the problem.
Kathy Paxton, Director Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse with the Bureau for Behavioral Health & Health Facilities says, "We've actually decreased prescription drug abuse for the first time since 2006, but we are still in the top three for overdose deaths and use all around".
A collaborative effort of agencies and individuals addressing issues of drug abuse prevention, early intervention, treatment, and recovery at the local and state level, known as the Governor's Task Force, went into effect in 2011. Paxton says drug abuse is so common today that everyone knows someone. She says, "It's closer to home than I think it was in the past".
Oxycontin, hydrocodone, and xanax are in the top five widely abused prescription drugs. Paxton says the over-abundance of prescriptions that are being prescribed is how many people get their hands on them.
Passing Senate Bill 437 requiring continuing education on drug abuse for prescribers is one of the most notable signs of success for the governor's task force. Paxton says there's always going to be things on the shelves that can be abused, but it's changing perceptions, it's improving our good mental health, it's having stronger and healthier communities, it's getting out physicians engaged, those are all the things that is going to change West Virginia and make this a better place to live.
Transportation to services and navigation of the system are two areas regional task forces are looking to address, but some success stories show where there is a will, there's a way. Doug Green is a Director of Union Mission's Foundation's Addiction Recovery Program and a recovering drug addict. He recalls, "over the course of 10-12 years I got to the point where I was taking 20-30 Ambien a day."
Green was a model student athlete. He didn't use drugs or alcohol and was never in trouble. Things changed when he became a pharmaceutical salesman. He remembers that he couldn't maintain relationships. He couldn't keep jobs. He says he couldn't even get out of bed.
Green says, "A guy that had made more than $100,000 doing pharmaceutical sales and all of a sudden I found myself in a homeless shelter." That's where he got the help he desperately needed.
Green says almost immediately life started to change. He adds, "The longer I was in the mission, the more I wanted to give back to the mission some of what they gave to me."
Now he shows others that if he can kick the habit, anyone can.