Southwest Virginia tops the charts in drug abuse

Drug abuse report

A new report just released says prescription drug abuse is on the rise in southwest Virginia.

The U.S. Attorney's office released their recommendations Wednesday concerning the issue.

Abuse of prescription drugs is at crisis proportions in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "Prescription drugs have been a problem for a long time, especially in southwest Virginia," said Bristol, Virginia Police Chief W.H. Price.

The U.S. Attorney's office released their research on what they found, concluding that southwest Virginia was particularly hard hit -- we learned 85 percent of all drug cases in Lee, Scott, Wise and Dickenson counties involve prescription drugs.

These four counties are only home to one percent of Virginia's population, yet the Virginia State Police spent 25 percent of their statewide undercover purchase funds buying prescriptions medications there in 2011.

One of the recommendations the U.S. Attorney's office made was making it mandatory for physicians to use the prescription-monitoring program to keep people from doctor shopping. "I think it puts people a little more at notice. Is it going to solve the problem? Probably not, but it might make a dent," said Fred Newman, Washington County, Virginia Sheriff.

Both Sheriff Newman and Chief Price said some physicians were already participating, but agreed that manpower on their end was an issue. "Even though just a few of them are actually participating in this program, just monitoring is a full time job," said Price.    

Another recommendation talked of encouraging employers to recognize and treat prescription drug abuse. Newman agreed it was a great idea, saying ultimately it comes down to all agencies working together to tackle the problem.

Chief Price says he wants to see at least the recommendations being implemented, but says other things need to be done too. "What we've got is a simple supply and demand. These programs are going to cut down on the demand part. That's one of the best ways you can handle supply, but you have to stop these folks from bringing it in here," said Price.

If you would like see more of the recommendations that were made, you can click here.

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