I left my home state of West Virginia 30 years ago to embark on a career in internal medicine. What drew me back in 2015 was the opioid crisis — and the even bigger health crisis it is part of.
Opioid addiction takes a greater toll in West Virginia than in any other state. In 2016, the last year with complete statistics, a West Virginian was dying of a drug overdose every 10 hours. As a physician who helps manage the largest medical system in West Virginia, I’ve learned that as big as the opioid addiction crisis is in our state, it is not the root problem. Instead, it is a symptom of a much larger problem, one of hopelessness, isolation, and despair.