PENDLETON COUNTY, W.Va. (WHSV) — This week's gridiron matchup between Petersburg and Pendleton County has been selected by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey as his "Opioid Abuse Prevention Game of the Week."
West Virginia is at the center of America's opioid crisis, with the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation. And Morrisey, since 2016, has focused in on the issue of opioid use in high school athletics.
A University of Michigan study found 21 percent of male athletes and 14 percent of female athletes will suffer a sports-related injury in a given year. It also concluded that adolescent male athletes are twice as likely to be prescribed opioid painkillers and four times more likely to abuse the pills than non-athletes.
Morrisey is fighting back against that with educational fliers, public service announcements and speaking events statewide.
This fall, he's also featuring high school football games to highlight opioid abuse awareness.
Throughout each week, representatives at the schools involved talk with student athletes, coaches, school officials, and communities about the dangers of opioid use, providing educational materials for display and distribution.
The week ends with the Attorney General’s Office staffing a booth at the game to hand out opioid abuse awareness materials.
“Alleviating the opioid scourge is vitally important to making our state the best it can be,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “This epidemic has taken too many of our young people and left children without parents. As long as we work together, we will make a difference.”
And Pendleton County is excited to join Morrisey's fight against opioid use in high school athletics.
“Pendleton County is thrilled to take part in such a worthy cause and get the word out to student athletes about the dangers of opioid abuse,” said Dave Eason, athletic director of Pendleton Middle-High School.
Opioid painkillers may temporarily relieve pain, but do nothing to address the underlying injury and can have serious side effects. The medication also carries striking similarities to heroin, especially in how addictive they can be for adolescents.
This initiative pushes other forms of pain management. Alternatives include physical therapy, non-opioid painkillers, acupuncture, massage therapy and over-the-counter medication.
The Attorney General’s Office, West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission and the West Virginia Board of Medicine are partnering in the effort.
Parents and caregivers are urged to discuss alternative treatment plans with their child’s healthcare provider. If an opioid proves necessary, they are encouraged to strictly use the medication as directed, closely monitor their child’s use, safely dispose of any unused pills and talk about the inherent dangers of misuse, abuse and sharing.