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West Virginia

West Virginia is located in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States. The state is bordered by Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland to the east. West Virginia is part of a region of the country that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. West Virginia is therefore mostly rural, and a great portion of the state is forested land. As of 2010 the estimated population of West Virginia 1,852,944, 44% of which lives in rural areas of the state. Because West Virginia is primarily rural, many residents find themselves isolated from services provided in larger more populated areas. The capitol of West Virginia is Charleston, boasting a population of 51,500 and the most populous city in the state. According to the 2010 US Census in West Virginia, nearly 94% of the population in the state is White. West Virginia has one of the lowest median household incomes in the United States. It is the 5th most impoverished state in the nation, with nearly 20% of West Virginia residents living in poverty.

West Virginia Drug Use Trends

Known for its many mountain ranges and rolling hills the state of West Virginia is home to 1,850,326 residents. The state has many rural areas and an abundance of clandestine meth labs, marijuana cultivators, and residents participating in pharmaceutical drug diversion. Problems with prescription drug abuse and addiction continue to rise in West Virginia. In 2013, the state had the highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States; primarily caused by prescription drug overdose. Since 1999, the rate of drug overdose deaths in West Virginia has increased by 605%. In twenty-nine state rates of drug overdose deaths have doubled, in four states the rates have quadrupled and in ten or more states they have tripled.

Prescription Drugs

West Virginia has experienced severe problems with prescription drug abuse and addiction over the last decade. With the highest drug overdose deaths (often due to prescription drugs), West Virginia has developed several prescription drug prevention programs. In recent years the state has received eight out of ten possible indicators of promising strategies to decrease prescription drug abuse and addiction. The indicators used to determine a state's involvement in preventing prescription drug abuse include: Existence of Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, Using the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, Doctor Shopping Laws, Support for Substance Abuse Treatment Services, Prescriber Education Required or Recommended, Good Samaritan Laws, Rescue Drug Laws, Physical Exam Requirement, ID Requirement, and Lock-In Programs. West Virginia has implemented all of these measures except the Good Samaritan Laws (provides a degree of immunity or mitigation of sentencing for those seeking help for themselves or others in the midst of an overdose) and Rescue Drug Laws (expanding the general publics access to and use of the rescue drug naloxone, known to counteract an overdose).

During 2013, over 33% of all West Virginia drug rehab enrollments cited prescription drugs/other opiates as their reason for receiving treatment. Admissions for prescription drug addiction and other opiates was the largest group of individuals to enroll in West Virginia drug rehab centers during 2013. The second largest group in the state that year cited alcohol addiction (16.5%) and the third largest group cited heroin addiction (15.6%). Of the 685 individuals receiving drug rehabilitation treatment for prescription drug addiction during 2013 in West Virginia, 45.1% was male and 54.9% was female. The largest age group to enroll in drug rehab for prescription drug addiction in West Virginia during 2013 was between the ages of 26-30 years old.


Heroin in West Virginia has become more accessible due to state and national laws regulating prescription drug use intensifying. As West Virginia's law enforcement doggedly go after pill mills and pharmaceutical drug diversion operations residents have begun to switch to a cheaper alternative, heroin. As an opiate, heroin provides users with a similar high as prescription opioid narcotics at a cheaper price. With the increase in heroin abuse the state has seen the rate of heroin overdose deaths triple between 2007 and 2012. In 2007, heroin overdose deaths made up 4.5% of all overdose deaths in the state. By 2012, they made up 12% of all overdose deaths in West Virginia. During 2013, over 15% of West Virginia drug rehab admissions cited heroin addiction as their reason for receiving treatment. 52.4% of these individuals were male and 47.2% were female. The largest age group to enroll in West Virginia drug rehab programs for heroin addiction in 2013 was between 26-30 years old.

Drug Trends

  • During 2010, West Virginia experienced a significant Controlled Prescription Drug (CPD) abuse problem. With the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country (28.9 per 100,000 residents). This is a substantial increase from the state's 1999 statistics of 4.1 per 100,000 residents in the state.
  • In 2012, there were 94 total alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in West Virginia.
  • A survey conducted in 2012 showed that 86.9% of West Virginia residents obtained their prescription drugs by buying them on the street, 40.2% from legitimate prescriptions, and 33.3% through receiving them or purchasing them from friends or family.
  • 7% of reported HIV/AIDS cases in West Virginia during 2012 were intravenous drug abusers.
  • An increase of over 40% was seen in the number of drug violation arrests between 2004 and 2011 in West Virginia.

Drug Rehabilitation

As the war on drugs continues, residents of West Virginia have a number of addiction rehabilitation services at their disposal. During 2013, an estimated 2,071 individuals entered West Virginia drug rehab programs for help overcoming their alcohol and drug addiction problems. With the states above average number of prescription drug addicts and heroin addicts there are several medical detox facilities and long-term drug rehab options located throughout West Virginia. These substances are physically addictive and cause severe withdrawal symptoms when discontinued. Medical supervision and support is necessary to help residents safely withdrawal when they are physically addicted to a substance. There are programs that utilize drug replacement medications, tapering down treatments as well as holistic methods to help their clients get through this detox process as comfortably and carefully as possible. While detox is critical in safely withdrawing from prescription drugs and heroin, it is only the first step in the process of true rehabilitation. Without additional drug rehabilitation treatment the individual lacks the skills and ability to maintain their sobriety and live a clean and sober life. Long-term inpatient or residential drug rehab is essential to helping the recovering individual work through the issues that drove them to abuse alcohol or drugs as well as teaching them valuable skills to prevent future substance use.

Population in West Virginia:1,816,856
State Prison Population in West Virginia:5,067
Probation Population in West Virginia:6,977
Violent Crime Rate in West Virginia:
National Ranking:36
2007 Federal Drug Seizures in West Virginia:
Cocaine seizures in West Virginia:5.7 kgs.
Heroin seizures in West Virginia:0.0 kgs.
Methamphetamine seizures in West Virginia:0.1 kgs.
Marijuana seizures in West Virginia:10.8 kgs.
Hashish seizures in West Virginia:0.0 kgs.
MDMA seizures in West Virginia:0.0 kgs./19 du
Meth Lab Incidents in West Virginia:40
(DEA, West Virginia, and local city Law Enforcement)
Drug Situation in West Virginia:
  • West Virginia is very mostly rural, hence the most pronounced drug problems involve the abuse and clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine, marijuana consumption and cultivation, and pharmaceutical drug diversion and abuse.
  • Cocaine, crack, and MDMA are available in most areas of West Virginia.
  • In West Virginia drug distributors are uniquely placed near eastern cities like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC, as well as large mid-western cities such as Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan. They are therefore able to take advantage of sources of supply in these areas.

  • Cocaine hydrochloride and crack cocaine are broadly available in most areas of West Virginia.
  • Crack cocaine abuse typically remains confined to low and low-middle income individuals, but crosses all ethnic lines in West Virginia.
  • Rural communities in West Virginia have been affected dramatically by crack distribution and accompanying violence.
  • Cocaine availability in West Virginia is limited to large-retail or small-wholesale quantities.
  • Source areas for cocaine are different than other drugs consumed in West Virginia, and are largely based on the trafficker's location within the state.

  • Demand and availability of heroin are very limited throughout West Virginia.
  • Small groups of long-term heroin addicts exist in West Virginia, who rely on each other to procure supplies of heroin from secondary source cities such as Philadelphia and Baltimore.
  • The heroin found in West Virginia typically retains the street/brand name and packaging of the Philadelphia or Baltimore-area supplier.

  • Clandestine methamphetamine laboratory activity in West Virginia has been decreasing due to state and Federal laws regulating the sale of precursors.
  • Methamphetamine manufacture previously appeared to be centered in the Panhandle region of West Virginia, it has apparently expanded to include other areas of northern West Virginia as well as some clandestine laboratory sites in the southeastern portion of the state bordering Kentucky and Virginia.
  • Methamphetamine distributors in West Virginia often share Mexican sources of supply with distributors in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley region.

  • West Virginia has seen increased demand for MDMA throughout the state, but abuse remains concentrated near Morgantown, the location of West Virginia University.
  • Demand for MDMA in college towns is high enough to ensure that thousands of the pills reach West Virginia every month.
  • Because of West Virginia's remote terrain, the area is purported to hold various private "rave" parties. Attendance at large-scale, publicized raves has been disappointing to promoters.

  • Imported and domestic, locally grown marijuana pose a serious drug threat in West Virginia.
  • West Virginia consistently ranks in the top ten states for marijuana eradication.
  • West Virginia serves as a source area for domestic marijuana.
  • Initially, the Appalachia HIDTA was established to combat marijuana cultivation in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia - although that mission has expanded.
  • Mexican commercial grade marijuana is more prevalent than domestically cultivated marijuana in West Virginia.

  • Current investigations show that diversion of hydrocodone products and diazepam continues to be a problem in West Virginia.
  • Primary methods of diversion of pharmaceuticals being reported in West Virginia are illegal sale and distribution by health care professionals and workers, "doctor shopping", employee theft, forged prescriptions, and the Internet.
  • Alprazolam, Vicodin, and methadone are identified as being among the most commonly abused and diverted pharmaceuticals in West Virginia.
  • West Virginia leads the nation in methadone-related deaths per capita.
  • West Virginia has the fastest-growing rate of methadone overdoses.

  • In 1995 a program was created known as the DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams, or "MET". This was in response to the overwhelming problem of drugs and drug-related crimes across the nation. Since the inception of the program, there has been one MET deployment in the State of West Virginia, in Charles Town.
  • There were 113 drug violation arrests in West Virginia in 2007.

  • The Appalachia HIDTA provides support to enforcement initiatives in the southern region of West Virginia.

West Virginia Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services

West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities
350 Capitol Street
Room 350
Charleston, West Virginia 25301-3702

  • Epidemiological Workgroup Contact Melody Gwilliam
    Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities
    [email protected]
  • Karen Hannah Epidemiologist
    West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities
    [email protected]

West Virginia: Substance Abuse Trends & Statistics

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Behavioral Health Barometer:
West Virginia

West Virginia: Substance Abuse Resources

Drug Rehab West Virginia West Virginia Division on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse

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