Appalachian Pillbillies

Appalachia is the cultural region that stretches along the famous Appalachian Mountain Trail. If you visit this area, the verdant rolling hills and breathtaking natural landscapes are hard to miss. However, when one looks beneath the beautiful facade, one uncovers a debilitating and dark pattern of widespread prescription drug abuse. Although prescription drug abuse is not an uncommon in other areas around the world, addiction to natural or synthetic opioids or painkillers (such as oxycodone, morphine, codeine, methadone, among others) has reached unprecedented levels in Appalachia. The abuse is so widespread that, in fact, a new term has been coined solely to describe those addicted: pillbillies. Why are Opiates So Popular in Appalachia? The high rate of addiction in Appalachia is thought to be caused in part by the pervasive poverty of the area, where the poverty rate is three times the national rate. Unfortunately, the high poverty rate both causes and is caused by the higher frequency of prescription drug abuse. Those who are addicted have trouble maintaining…

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Good Samaritan Bill – Get Help and Avoid Prosecution

Too often a witness to an overdose will hesitate to call 911 because of fear of prosecution. Whether they are using too, or have drugs (or drug paraphernalia) on them, they think first about avoiding the police, and only second about calling for help for the victim. The California legislature, at the lead of Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D San Francisco), is aiming to change this trend. The 911 Good Samaritan Overdose Response Act is the legislation he has sponsored, in hopes that people will be more likely to get victims the medical attention that they need in the case of an overdose. This law does not protect witnesses from all charges, but merely three specific, lower-level charges; possession of paraphernalia, possession for personal use, and being under the influence. Even this small change, it is hoped, will vastly increase the likelihood that 911 will be called and that an overdosing user can be saved. The California bill was passed in an overwhelming bipartisan effort, with only 20 of 70…

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Prescription Drug Overdose Remains a U.S. Epidemic, Painkillers Big Part of the Problem

We've been chronicling how widespread prescription drug abuse has become a problem of epidemic proportions. According to recent numbers released by the CDC, the number of deaths caused by prescription drug overdose serves as shocking evidence of the problem. There are now more deaths annually from overdose of prescription drugs than car accidents. This is the the result of a steep increase in prescription drug abuse that has occurred over the last two decades. These numbers beg the question of what is behind the trend. Why Prescription Drug Abuse is so Pervasive Prescription painkillers are the key players in prescription drug related deaths. Prescription painkillers now rank as third in popularity among teens who abuse, right after alcohol and marijuana. According to the FDA, one out of every seven teenagers reports prescription painkiller abuse for the purposes of getting high over the course of a year. It is possible that part of what is driving this is easy accessibility and a misconception of prescription painkillers. For many, obtaining a…

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