Prescription drugs can be a positive solution to a serious health problem, but experts say in southwest Virginia, they're No. 1 when it comes to abuse. And the problem, according to Tim Heaphy, U.S. Attorney for Virginia's western district, has already set back economic development here.
"Unfortunately, we have heard major employers who are hesitant to locate factories, call centers, new business opportunities in this region because it's difficult, frankly, to find a workforce that will test clean," Heaphy said.
The issue of prescription drug abuse was spotlighted during a summit in Wytheville on Wednesday.
Onecare, a regional non-profit combating substance abuse, faces the same economic challenges.
"Even on our OneCare board, it's difficult to get businesses that want to join us in this fight," said Sarah Melton, Chairwoman, OneCare of Southwest Virginia.
One of the doctors, also a recovering addict, who spoke during the summit said if southwest Virginia were its own state, we would be one of the leading states in the country for prescription drug abuse.
And while there is no easy solution for curbing abuse, some at least have a plan.
"Talking to the young kids, letting them see what's happening," said Melton.
"The only way you're going to fix this problem is if you combine enforcement solutions, the core function of arresting people that are profiting, trafficking these substances and the prevention and the education piece," Heaphy said.
So for today, it was a start on education, a peek into what is already a real problem in our region.