Study: W.Va. heroin overdoses doubled after use of drug-monitoring program

Researchers suggested that limiting the ability to acquire prescription painkillers can lead to more people using heroin

By EMS1 Staff

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — New research suggested that drug-monitoring programs can lead to more heroin overdoses if not paired with a policy to help treat addiction.

Pacific Standard reported that after West Virginia made it a law that doctors must use the drug-monitoring database, heroin overdoses doubled in three years.

"It really underscores the need for a multi-faceted, comprehensive solution for this," West Virginia University graduate student Sara Warfield, who led the study, said.

Other researchers have suggested that restricting access to prescription painkillers can lead to people turning to heroin if programs are not put into place to help addicts get treatment.

Warfield looked at data from a network of hospitals, and she looked at how often painkiller and heroin overdose patients were admitted between 2008 and 2015. She found that heroin overdoses spiked significantly in 2012.

"It's extremely difficult to say anything with causality, but our findings did show that the current opioid overdoses are really being driven by heroin and not by prescription opioids," Warfield said.

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