A remote Virginia valley has been flooded by prescription opioids

New DEA data reveals that pharmaceutical companies manufactured 76 billion doses of opioid analgesics over a 7-year period, from 2006 through 2012. In the small city of Norton, VA, its Walmart received more than 3.5 million opioid analgesics during this timeframe, while the CVS Pharmacy there received more than 1.3 million doses.

New DEA data reveals that pharmaceutical companies manufactured 76 billion doses of opioid analgesics over a 7-year period, from 2006 through 2012. In the small city of Norton, VA, its Walmart received more than 3.5 million opioid analgesics during this timeframe, while the CVS Pharmacy there received more than 1.3 million doses. Charles Slemp, Virginia's attorney for the city of Norton and Wise County, says: "It is extremely disappointing that substances that are manufactured to help an individual are being sold and distributed at proportions that are poisoning not just individuals but an entire community." Officials note that patients come from surrounding counties, even from those in Kentucky or Tennessee. Norton saw per capita sales of opioid analgesics of 306 per person annually on average from 2006 to 2012; its population is less that 4,000. The city and Wise County last year joined the state and other local jurisdictions in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, seeking millions in damages. Norton Mayor Joseph Fawbush says a key reason for joining the litigation was to determine how much the opioid epidemic has cost his community. The opioid epidemic has shown some signs of easing as a result of efforts to clamp down on physicians and others regarded as "pill mills." Slemp says methamphetamine use in Norton has been rising in recent years, indicating a "dangerous trend."