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West Virginia: America’s Drug Capital

All alone tucked between two valleys in West Virginia, among the Appalachian Mountains, there used to be a town with beautiful nature, bustling coalmines, and developing cities. It’s now infested with drug-addicted zombies. The town, just like the people that remain, is an empty hopeless broken shell of its former self. What I called home, other people know as the drug capital of America.

Huntington, WV has become home to the most opioid-addicted population in history. With over half of its residents abusing some form of painkiller, including heroin and OxyContin, Huntington truly lives up to its name. So much so that receiving a dose of Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose, has become a daily occurrence. Lawmakers have even debated whether to administer Narcan to repeat offenders or not. The recent outbreak of dependence on illegal substances, has led the state to take desperate measures. This has truly become an epidemic, but this isn’t the first time West Virginia has faced a drug issue.

Much like the documentary “Herion(e)” available on Netflix, 8 years ago another doc debuted, called “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.” The movie followed the White family, in a small town called Boone County, through their daily lives. It depicted the family’s drug addiction and often showed them abusing illegal substances, such as crack cocaine. The women of the household were known to brawl in the middle of the road, without a care for passing cars. Oftentimes, their brutal fights were over drugs or an unfaithful man. The men would fire them off at people when any sort of disagreement happened. Jesco White and Sue Bob White were the main focus of the film. Jesco, much like his father, was featured in another documentary years before for his ability to dance.

Although he is most known for laying his baby on a bed to go into the bathroom to do a line of cocaine, he was known for his rogue street fights as well. Sue Bob, Jesco’s younger sister, was one of the women that would pick fights for fun in the streets. Usually, she would win each altercation by stomping her foot on top of her opponent’s head. She is, “The sexiest one in her family” as quoted on her Facebook profile. Sue Bob was arrested soon after the film was released, and has recently been arrested for a slew of charges including, public intoxication, shoplifting, possession of a controlled substance and obstruction of property. Though most of the White’s fame has died down, Boone County’s has not. In 2013, a song known as “Boone County Mating Call” by Mini Thin, a rapper from West Virginia, was released. The song describes how to attract a Boone County girl by simply shaking a pill bottle. It makes humor of the disgusting actions that still go on in that backwoods town today.

Though the town I used to live in isn’t as bad as the two I mentioned earlier, Logan County still plays a role in the drug epidemic. I’ve witnessed the countless addicts, whom we call “town critters,” wander down the streets aimlessly, looking for their next high. Driving down certain parts of the road has become dangerous, due to women we nickname fashion girls jumping in front of cars, trying to attract their newest customer. Their whole lives revolve around getting their next high.

Leaving this environment seemed to be my only option. As I have heard from other friends and family members who are unable to leave due to poverty, it has only gotten worse. “The schools have changed a lot since you left last year” says my friend of 6 years. “They’ve laid off so many people out of the mines there are barely any students left. Almost all of the teachers are being let go left and right. Every person I run into now is trying to sell me weed or their mom’s pain pills, and it’s just gone to hell.”

There are truly no options left for these people. They were raised to eat, sleep, and breath coal. When the mines went down, so too did the ties that held our communities together. The extreme loss of income came like a slap in the face, without a warning. My father was an above-ground strip miner, working for a well paying company. He made so much that we bought a 5-bedroom home, brand new cars and the latest iPhones. One morning, as soon as he pulled up to the mine gates, his boss ordered him to leave. “Go back home son. They shut us all down,” he said. All of our belongings were ripped out from under us by the bank. We were only able to cling to our house. Because of this, some nights we didn’t have enough money to pay for food. Luckily, our grandparents put meals on the table on those occasions. We could either sit in a rut while all of our money dwindled away or spend every penny we had left to get out. Fortunately, we chose the latter, or I probably wouldn’t be writing this today. Many people in our predicament chose the former, and began to hustle drugs on the side.

The few good people left in Logan disagree with the recent exposure of the drug crisis. However, I believe it is a positive step towards ending the plague known as addiction. Now I am an outsider looking in, who was once stuck in crossfire of a drug crisis slowly eating away at my home. Only the people of West Virginia can solve the drug epidemic.