For most of the last decade, the once thriving city of Martinsville, Va., had the highest unemployment rate in Virginia. Its disability and poverty rates are consistently double the state average, and its population is aging. The former textile and furniture manufacturing mecca now has another dubious distinction. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its drugstores dispense the highest volume of opioid painkillers per capita in the nation, reports Stateline.
Using 2015 data from retail pharmacy receipts, the CDC for the first time reported the volume and potency of pain tablets sold in the nation’s drugstores and calculated per capita rates of morphine equivalent doses sold at the county level. Martinsville drugstores came out on top, selling enough Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and other opioid painkillers to medicate every man, woman and child in the city for 136 days, nearly seven times the national average. In 2015, Americans on average consumed the equivalent of 21 days of the average dose of morphine per person, three times the rate of opioid use in 1999. Martinsville has a pill problem. Its rates of drug-related hospital admissions, overdose deaths and opioid-exposed newborns are also among the highest in the nation. “Our opioid problem has been many years in the making,” Police Chief Eddie Cassady said. “And it’s going to take an ongoing, long-term effort to change it.”