Back in June, I spent a Friday night at home watching an eye-opening episode of VICE about the heroin and opioid epidemic in rural West Virginia. Watch it above. It’s a shocking, haunting episode. Then, just a month ago, L.A. Times journalist Matt Pearce wrote a horrifying piece about Huntington, West Virginia, where 26 people overdosed within five hours while he was on assignment there. Any piece that begins with the lede “They’re just showing up and dying.” from an EMT will send a chill down your spine.
Heroin, opioid, and fentanyl addiction is ravaging rural America. It’s a big problem everywhere, but small, poor rural populations are particularly susceptible to it. I grew up in a dirt poor rural Pennsylvania town where there were always murmurs of the area’s rising heroin addiction levels. One Monday morning in the late winter, my high school speech class teacher announced that the girl who sat behind me was the victim of such an overdose over the weekend. It sent a shock wave through the community. Since that was over 12 years ago, I shutter to think about the possibility of that same scenario behind repeated over and over in rural high schools around the country.
Anyway, if there’s one thing to read today on the topic, make it this Wall Street Journal article quantifying what increasing addiction rates actually look like. If you think America’s drug epidemic is a myth for whatever boneheaded reason, this map visualizing the increase in overdoses over the course of 15 years should give you pause.