Reporter examines W.Va.’s drug epidemic

The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette‘s Alison Knezevich has geared an in-depth series around the fact that West Virginia has the highest rate of drug deaths in the nation. The overwhelming majority of those drug deaths involved prescription drugs.

In subsequent stories, Knezevich shifted her focus from the abusers to the medical community, beginning with those gatekeepers whose prescription pads are constant reminders that “nearly two-thirds of West Virginians who misuse pain relievers get them from friends or relatives for free.”

The tightrope walk between managing real pain and supplying addicts is such an exhausting one that some doctors fear employment in rural West Virginia clinics. It’s a dilemma faced even by those physicians who specialize in rehab, thanks to a newly popular brand-name drug for recovering addicts.

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