One way to slow the rampant abuse of opioids in the Mountain State is to decrease the number of unnecessary prescriptions that are being written for pain killers. A new study has revealed that West Virginia is enjoying some success in that area.

Since 2013, the number of opioid prescriptions written in the state has decreased by 51 percent, according to the IQVIA-study, released in May and analyzed last week by Axios. It ranked West Virginia’s 51-percent decline in opioid prescriptions as second behind only the District of Columbia. Every other state experienced a decline of less than 50 percent. 

The encouraging findings of this study were highlighted last week by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

“We must do everything to reduce the oversupply of opioid painkillers, and news of a 51-percent decline proves that our efforts are paying real dividends,”  Morrisey said. “The Attorney General’s Office had no concerted, substance abuse fighting unit when our team arrived, and through years of hard work we have transformed the office and with a commitment to stop senseless death.”

According to Morrisey, the attorney general’s office has taken a holistic approach and has sought to attack the root causes of the opioid epidemic from a supply, a demand and an educational perspective. That includes being aggressive  in bringing accountability to the pharmaceutical supply channel through enforcement, suing and reaching an agreement with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to change the nation’s drug quota system, establishing best practices for prescribing and dispensing opioids, educating citizens and more. 

Morrisey said his office’s $84 million in distributor settlements set the standard nationally, while its unilateral lawsuit against the DEA fundamentally changed national drug policy. He says it yielded sweeping reforms to the nation’s drug quota system that will dramatically reduce the number of opioid pills manufactured each year.

Furthermore, the attorney general’s office also developed a best practices toolkit for prescribing and dispensing opioids, which has been endorsed by more than 25 national and state stakeholders. The office also has sponsored a Kids Kick Opioids contest, an elementary and middle school competition designed to spur creativity and raise awareness of prescription painkiller abuse.

It will take a continued, multi-faceted approach, to address the substance abuse problem in the state. This includes criminal prosecutions, civil litigations like those pursued by Morrisey, community awareness and an aggressive approach by law enforcement and prosecutors when it comes to going after those who are abusing narcotics in our region.

Seeing a reduction in the number of opioid prescriptions that are being written in the state is another positive step in helping to control, and ultimately overcome, the opioid abuse problem.