Skip to main content

Background Image for Header: West Virginia scenery

Combatting substance abuse and the opioid epidemic


No one will solve this epidemic overnight or single-handedly. Providing evidence-based actions for prevention and treatment of addiction and workforce re-entry programs can reinforce successful work while uncovering new opportunities. WV Forward and partners are looking at: (1) where evidence is established; (2) gaps in data and research; and (3) how social norms and bias interfere with best practices. Both WVU and Marshall have tremendous ongoing efforts on this epidemic.

West Virginia By the Numbers

At 52 deaths per 100,000 people, West Virginia had the highest drug overdose death rate in the country in 2016, followed by Ohio at 39.1 deaths. 

West Virginia’s rate rose from 41.5 deaths to 52 deaths per 100,000 people in the span of one year. 

West Virginia has the highest overdose rates for natural and semi-synthetic opioids (such as Fentanyl) and synthetic opioids (such as heroin). 

Researchers are studying the effect of the increased use of opioids on labor market participation among prime-age adults and on the ability of employers to find workers. Finding workers who are clean of drugs has challenged employers, particularly in southwest Virginia and West Virginia. 


The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

We lose 30% of applicants due to drug test failure.
People come in to apply for jobs, but when they find out we require a drug test, they ‘forget something in their car’ and never come back.
Drug problems are holding down labor force participation in West Virginia—it seems like the men, at least, are all either disabled or on drugs.

Be part of something bigger.

We want to hear from you. Share your ideas. Stay informed. Help us move West Virginia Forward.

WVU logo West Virginia Seal Marshall University logo

Contact Us

*Citations available upon request.