Welcome to 'Ground Zero' for America's Pill Poppers

Kermit, West Virginia, home to die-hard addicts
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2012 12:28 PM CDT
Welcome to 'Ground Zero' for America's Pill Poppers
The prescription medicine OxyContin is displayed August 21, 2001 at a Walgreens drugstore in Brookline, Mass.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A tiny coal-mining town of barely 300 people and no supermarket is home to one booming business: pharmacies. In Kermit, West Virginia, two Sav-Rites alone moved 3.2 million doses of hydrocodone in 2006—a tad more than the 97,000 doses the average pharmacy sells in a year, reports Salon. Their customers were pill addicts from all over the Eastern seaboard. Now prosecutors have closed the Sav-Rites, but more "pill mills" are cropping up in a game of Whac-A-Mole against America's biggest drug menace today: prescription medicine.

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Abuse of prescription pain relievers has reportedly soared 430% over the past decade, and it's not just Oxycontin (or "hillbilly heroin") anymore. Today's top pills include the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and opioid painkillers like Loracet, Lortabs, and Vicodin. Kermit became ground zero for pill addicts because its miners, long beset with aches and pains, turned to Oxycontin in the late 1990s. But the addiction has spread: One recovering opioid addict says she hopes to raise her son in nearby Gilbert—nicknamed Pillbert. "Of course," she admits, "nowhere is completely safe." (Read more Xanax stories.)

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