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article imageWest Virginia law allows schools to administer opioid antidotes

By Karen Graham     Apr 14, 2017 in Health
Under a new West Virginia law, schools, both public and private are now authorized to administer drugs to counteract opioid overdoses in students without first receiving parental consent.
The legislation, passed unanimously by West Virginia's House and Senate, has been signed by Governor Jim Justice. The law also authorizes the administration of the antidote to school personnel and others during regular school hours or at functions and events on school property, reports ABC News. The law takes effect in 90 days.
The legislation comes at a time when the state is battling an opioid addiction crisis that has left over 30,000 people already in drug treatment programs. In 2016, 844 people died from drug overdoses, with 708 deaths involving at least one of three opioids - heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers. Additionally, 101 deaths involved methamphetamines and 149 involved cocaine.
West Virginia is Ground Zero for opioid epidemic
It may seem strange for a state to allow its public schools to dispense an opioid antidote in the case of a student overdosing, but the reality is not strange at all. From 2011 through 2013, West Virginia had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation. And on up through 2016, suffered from a rate of 33.5 drug overdoses per 100,000 people, compared to a national average of 13.4 deaths.
Experts have blamed the economic despair, high unemployment, and lack of enough mental health facilities in the state that built its economy on coal mining, along with a feeling of isolation in many communities. In reality, though, it seems at first glance that all these reasons aren't adding up.
However, there is another very good explanation for the spike in addiction to opioids in West Virginia - Pharmaceutical companies. Some drug manufacturers and out-of-state wholesalers flooded the state with opioids. Over 780 million painkillers were poured into West Virginia, allowing physicians to prescribe them to any and everyone who came to them with a little pain.
The availability of the opioid pills also fueled a very profitable underground market for the illicit painkillers. According to a Gazette-Mail investigation, over a period of six years, that 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills caused 1,728 overdose deaths, a lot in a state with a population of only 1.84 million people. By the way, that comes to 844 pills for each resident in the state.
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from poppy-derived thebaine. It is a narcotic analg...
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from poppy-derived thebaine. It is a narcotic analgesic generally indicated for relief of moderate to severe pain
Using court settlement monies
The investigation was picked up by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the investigation at the national level grew in scope, and the lawsuits are numerous. But West Virginia did get $24 million from some recent court settlements. Lawmakers recently voted to use the settlement money to increase the number of addiction treatment center inpatient beds.
The bill is awaiting Governor Justice's signature. There are currently 314 crisis and detoxification beds and 818 recovery beds, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Resources. An earlier version of the bill called for an additional 600 beds, but the clause was removed. The DHHR really doesn't know exactly how many beds it needs.
“DHHR plans to evaluate where the greatest need is for these types of services and develop a plan,” spokeswoman Allison Adler said. “An application-type process will be used to encourage the private sector to apply to build these facilities.”
More about West Virginia, opioid addiction crisis, Naloxone, public and private schools, New law
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