The Drug Enforcement Administration maintains a database that tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States. The Washington Post and HD Media, publisher of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, gained access to these records from 2006 to 2012 as a result of a court order. We have made the data publicly accessible, and you can find the data for your community here.
The records show extreme disparities between the number of pills distributed per person in each county. In towns and counties inundated with pills, death rates soared. Rural communities in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia were some of the hardest hit, with the highest rates of death per capita. While the national death rate for opioids stands at 4.6 deaths per 100,000 residents, in the small rural city of Norton, Va., the death rate was 18 times the national rate. Drug companies sent 306 pain pills per person in Norton, which has a population of 4,000, according to The Post’s analysis.
But the data only tells us one part of the story. We need your help understanding what this information means to you and your community. How has your community been affected by opioids? Do these numbers surprise you, or do they fit within your understanding of how your community has been impacted by the crisis? How have local officials or organizations responded? And how have things changed over time?
Let us know in the form below. A reporter may follow up with you. If you cannot see this form, please click here. If you would like to submit a confidential tip using a secure channel, such as Signal, follow the instructions here.