Medical syringes, needles

President Barack Obama visited West Virginia on Wednesday to highlight the growing problem of heroin abuse in the United States. West Virginia has the highest death rate from drug overdoses in the country.

This was the first time in over five years that Obama visited West Virginia. Over the last five years the problem of heroin use has worsened in the state.

The president visited West Virginia's capital, Charleston. In neighboring Huntington, police seized 5.5 kilos of heroin in 2013, which marked a 395 gram increase from 2010 figures.

Heroin Abuse Blamed on Work Injuries, Unemployment, and Lack of Treatment

Healthcare experts and police in the Charleston area say that the high rate of injury among coal miners, high unemployment rates and lack of access to drug abuse programs have combined to make West Virginia a hotbed for heroin issues.

Obama says that federal agencies will be providing training to healthcare practitioners about the dangers of prescribing opiate-based pain medications, which can lead to heroin abuse. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that 45 percent of heroin users in the United States are also prescription pain medication addicts.

Obama to Order More Funding for Addiction Programs

Obama will order the CDC to direct $8.5 million in funding to opiate addiction prevention programs. He will also ask for a review of the barriers that are preventing treatment and medication for opiate addiction.

Deputy Fire Department Chief Jan Radar, of Huntington, said that she saw heroin deaths begin to rise in 2011. This happened after Florida started shutting down various pill mills that were selling opiate-based pain medications to West Virginia suppliers. Radar said that West Virginia realizes it has a problem with heroin abuse, but additional funding is needed to resolve the situation.

In order to solve our nation's heroin problems and other drug addiction issues, many politicians and healthcare advocates say that drug addiction needs to be viewed as a disease and not as a criminal act.

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