West Virginia is facing yet another crippling crisis created by crooked corporations. I understand how the opioid epidemic occurred but it’s still an enigma to me. Growing up with my grandparents, pills were a last resort for treating any of our maladies. The survival kit for sickness in my home was peroxide, rubbing alcohol, Vicks VapoRub, Bayer Baby Aspirin and Bactine. I grew up believing that the sting meant it was working. Pain was just part of the healing process for us.

The only meth we had was Merthiolate. Although I did shake a mild addiction to Flintstone Chewable Vitamins. I grew up humbly and happily in small-town West Virginia. It was God’s greatest gift to me. My heart hurts now to see what’s become of my childhood home and other small towns throughout the state. It’s a sting that doesn’t make it all better for me. Like many folks, I moved away from West Virginia for work. I returned for peace of mind I couldn’t find anywhere else. West Virginia is my natural antidepressant.

And good thing, because these days there’s a lot to be depressed about here. Most notably, the destructive impact of drugs on our communities.  Lives lay in ruins and towns left in rubble by the latest explosive boom in our state. Like many, I’m angered at the pharmaceutical industry and unscrupulous doctors prescribing poison to our people. I’m also angered that the state will certainly profit from prevention, treatment, and eventual punishment, of the victims of this epidemic. Once the obligatory shaming and wrist slapping of corporate culprits ends, so will the compassion for those suffering.


The only difference between alcohol and drug abuse is you don’t need a prescription to buy Budweiser. Booze is big business in the state. Aside from taxes, the revenue generated by targeting impaired drivers, under the guise of citizen safety, is too lucrative not to expand to pills. People charged with D.U.I. don’t get therapy or treatment with an alcohol alternative like methadone at no cost. They pay steep penalties (stiffer than any drink) for years. For now, society has decided that drug abuse—among the middle class, at least—is worthy of our empathy. That too will change, when the money is gone.

There’s a double standard that can’t be denied. The bottle you get your buzz from makes a big difference in how you’re treated. No one accuses Anheuser-Busch of distributing a product that destroys lives, although it certainly does. Pharmaceutical companies and distilleries are both legal drug dealers. Don’t get me started on tobacco. Addiction to one isn’t better than the other. My point is, anyone struggling with hardship deserves compassion. Disasters, poverty, depression, addiction and the lot, the world needs more West Virginians in it today. Trust me, I’ve lived other places and I know.

We’ve become a society of blamers. It’s everyone else’s fault but mine. There are a lot of people to blame for the pill epidemic but, in the end, blame doesn’t solve problems. It just eases our conscience, so we can kick the can down the holler. I will say this though. If doctors prescribed drugs as sensibly as my veterinarian, we wouldn’t be in this mess. When my dog, Cracker Jack, was neutered, he was given just two pain pills, and he could only have half of each twice a day. If that’s all he needed to recover from a procedure like that, we should all probably try to get along with a couple of Tylenol first.

– Jim Shock. HashtagWV #95. November 2017.


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