WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania rank top in the nation for drug-related deaths. Since 1970, the US has spent over one trillion dollars trying to fight against the war on drugs. But is it working? 7News spoke with one official who believes West Virginia is actually seeing a positive impact in people ranging from 12 to 25.
A study conducted by the U-S-Drug-Test-Centers shows the most recent data for substance abuse. It measured Marijuana, alcohol, vaping, pain killers, and harder drugs like cocaine in youth. West Virginia is actually ranking at the top for the biggest decrease inactivity for some categories.
A quarter of states have seen marijuana use in people ages 12 to 17 increase since 2008, but West Virginia is not one of them. We come in at number 41, making us one of the states least impacted. We also have the smallest increase in heavy drug use. But not everything the state is seeing is positive.
We are near the top in non-cigarette tobacco use such as vaping and smokeless tobacco. So, we do have some work to do with education and awareness around vaping, but still a lot of positives are coming from the study.DAVID HESS- CEO, WVU REYNOLDS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
Recently, two teenagers overdosed in Morgantown from vape juice laced with Heroin. Now officials are pushing for a more widespread plan of action to fight against what could become a vaping epidemic in our state.
So, now we’re seeing an increase and now we’re in the top of the country in non-cigarette tobacco use. Now, we keep the microscope on narcotics because we know that’s the deadly thing, but now we move it over onto vaping as well. We make that kind of public enemy number one or number two.DAVID HESS- CEO, WVU REYNOLDS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
And the media plays some part in that. Hess says by alerting the public of the dangers, we can potentially scare kids away from continued use.
So, hopefully we’re overestimating some of the problem when we’re talking about it in the media, but again, that’s a good thing. Because if kids are reporting in studies that they’re actually not misusing painkillers as much as we think in the community, then actually we are making a difference with education and awareness and keeping this top of mind.DAVID HESS- CEO, WVU REYNOLDS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
Hess also says that in many situations kids turn to drugs as a way out of their depression or social status.
So when kids don’t see hope, they don’t see a way out of their socioeconomic situation, or their poor family situation, often times they turn to drugs. One of the things I hope that this study is hinting towards is that maybe as a state some of these kids are seeing a little bit more hope and less despair and they’re turning to drugs and alcohol less than they have been in the past.DAVID HESS- CEO, WVU REYNOLDS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
So, Hess stays optimistic in our youth and says he thinks we are moving the needle on education for prevention and awareness, and that will make for better hope overall.