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Addiction

WVU researchers studying opioid crisis

Finding answers to our substance abuse crisis has become a priority for West Virginians. It is critical that the answers we put forth are the right ones.

Enormous resources are being poured into the battle. Just last week, it was revealed the state will be receiving $38 million more in federal funding for the purpose. That money needs to be used effectively.

We know many Mountain State residents got hooked on opioids because of easy access to pain medications. Various efforts are being made to narrow or close that avenue toward addiction.

One such initiative was by the state Legislature. Last year, lawmakers enacted a bill placing limits on prescriptions for drugs that include opioids.

A clear need exists for such restrictions. In 2017, 81.3 prescriptions for opioid medicines were written for every 100 people in our state, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. The national average that year was 58.7 per 100.

Curbing easy access to opioid prescription drugs ought to help, then. But does it?

Two researchers at the West Virginia University’s School of Medicine are trying to find out. As we reported, they are looking into prescription practices both before and after the law in question took effect on June 7, 2018. They also are talking to patients and health care providers.

“A lot of states have made this sort of law in various iterations — and we don’t really know if they work,” explained one of the researchers, Cara Sedney. “If it works — or if it doesn’t work — we want to know why and how.”

Too often, legislators are forced to fly by the seat of their pants because they are not certain whether new laws actually will accomplish what is intended. Sometimes, even common sense does not pan out.

Learning whether this particular law is making a difference is vital. Good for the WVU researchers — and for the university itself for providing a platform from which such important research can be pursued.