Opioid use is a dangerous and deadly epidemic nationwide that crosses all socioeconomic and geographic lines. It’s a particular scourge for teens in relatively rural areas, a demographic that fits the state of West Virginia to a T. The data backs up those findings; according to Charleston ABC affiliate WHSV, 598 of the 686 drug overdose deaths in West Virginia in 2015 were the result of opioid abuse.
With the onset of the high school sports season, and the subsequent injuries and prescription painkillers that come with them, West Virginia officials have decided on a proactive response to the escalation of teen opioid abuse, with a combination of educational outreach and integrated partnerships with the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC), West Virginia Board of Medicine and the West Virginia Physical Therapy Association aimed at limiting the risk of teen abuse.
“Everyone has a vested interest in the health and safety of our state’s students,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told WHSV. “Many people think injuries are the biggest threat student athletes will face, but reality shows the medicine they’re prescribed after an injury could present another danger.”
The plans unveiled by Morrisey include educational speaking events across the state, educational flyers and a number of public service announcements. The real key behind the campaign may be the buy-in it receives from the three major state bodies, particularly the WVSSAC, which governs sports in the state. For their part, it’s clear that coaches whose schools are involved in WVSSAC competition recognize how important the anti-opioid effort is for their future.
“Those pills strike fear in you,” said Capital High Football Head Coach Jon Carpenter. “I think any coach would support an initiative that would keep his players from getting addicted to such a drug.”