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Treatment & Mistreatment - Appalachia's Complicated Relationship with Pain

President Donald Trump's Commission on the Opioid Crisis recently recommended that the president declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. The commission said that such a declaration could free up money to fight the epidemic.

Back in April, we aired a special report about the opioid epidemic here in Appalachia. So this week, we’re going to revisit that story to remember how some Appalachians became addicted, and what a battle for sobriety can be like.

Michael Holdren: Recovering Addict

Michael Holdren, a father of four children, wasn’t always addicted to opioids. Holdren explains that the problem started after an injury obtained from working in the oil fields. He broke his hand at work and was prescribed pain medication for the injury, but the pills seemed to fix his emotional pain as well.

Treating Chronic Pain

Doctors and physicians are finding more and more evidence of recovery through exercise and therapy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, now recommends doctors avoid prescribing opioids as a first resort for chronic pain.

The History of Opioids

Are you in pain today? This is the question that caused opioid prescriptions to skyrocket in the early 2000’s. As pain became a fifth vital sign, doctors felt more obligated to help their patients feel better. With the new “slow acting” pain medication Oxycontin, why wouldn’t you help? What doctors didn’t know before recently is that the pharmaceutical companies told people that the drugs weren’t addictive. This process led to people “doctor shopping” and abusing the prescriptions that led up to what we call the Opioid Epidemic. These days medical professionals are a lot more selective about prescribing narcotics to avoid causing a patient to develop an addiction to opioids. But what happens when the patient doesn’t get what they want?

The Struggle to Stay

Crystal Snyder is an unemployed mother of two and a native of West Virginia. She lost her previous job and now struggles with her next move. Read moreHave you known anyone who is or was an addict? Tell us about it on Twitter. Here are some responses from our listeners:


Music in this episode was provided by Marisa Anderson, Dinosaur Burps, Larry Dowling, Ben Townsend, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Heroes are Gang Leaders.

Patrick Stephens is our audio mixer. Roxy Todd helped produce. We also had help from Clark Davis and Eric Newhouse.

Jesse Wright is our executive producer. He also edited this episode. We’d love to hear from you. You can e-mail us at feedback@wvpublic.org. Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia or @JessicaYLilly.


Copyright 2017 West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jessica Lilly
Jessica Lilly covers southern West Virginia for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program and during afternoon newscasts.
Roxy Todd
Roxy Todd is a reporter and co-producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. Her stories have aired on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards for Best Use of Sound and Best Writing for her stories about Appalachian food and culture.