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“Dopesick” author Beth Macy will host an online town hall Friday to discuss opioid abuse in West Virginia.

HUNTINGTON — The author of the best-selling book and television series “Dopesick” will host an online town hall Friday to discuss opioid abuse in West Virginia.

“Dopesick and Combatting the Syndemic in West Virginia and Appalachia” will feature a discussion between author Beth Macy and West Virginia-based Community Education Group’s Executive Director A. Toni Young.

The discussion, scheduled from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14, will focus on the impact of the opioid crisis in West Virginia and Appalachia. Registration for the free event can be found at bit.ly/3GicrAl.

From 2006 to 2014, more than 1.1 billion prescription pain pills were supplied to West Virginia. Cabell County, which has a population of less than 100,000, saw 81 million of those pills. When the number of pills being shipped to the state decreased, patients turned to illicit drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl.

A decade after the pill shipments decreased dramatically, fatal overdoses in West Virginia soared to an all-time high in 2020, after dropping in 2018 and 2019. More than 1,600 residents died from an overdose between April 2020 and April 2021, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, The death rate was a 62% increase in the number of overdose deaths per capita.

More than 100,000 people died nationally, the most in history.

Over the summer, Cabell County and Huntington became the first out of thousands of local governments to go to trial against opioid distributors accused of fueling the opioid crisis by pumping pills into West Virginia from 2006 to 2014. A verdict has not been reached in that case yet, but could yield the governments the $2.6 billion they say is needed to abate the crisis over a 15-year period.

Macy serves as an executive producer and writer on the acclaimed Hulu limited television series “Dopesick,” based on her book, which she wrote after three decades of reporting on the same Virginia communities featured in “Dopesick.” The series stars Michael Keaton and Rosario Dawson and has received critical acclaim.

“Dopesick” follows a Virginia community as it unravels the roots of the opioid crisis — the introduction of OxyContin by Purdue Pharma in 1996 — and how it combined with a landscape of job loss, corporate greed and stigma as families of victims and first responders fight back.

Courtney Hessler is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch, coveringState Government, Health and Marshall University. Follow her on Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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