CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Veterans' hospitals in Beckley and Huntington prescribed powerful painkillers at some of the highest rates in the nation from 2001 to 2012, according to a new report.
The Center for Investigative Reporting, a national nonprofit journalism organization, recently released more data in conjunction with an ongoing series on the nation's veterans. It found the fatal overdose rate for VA patients is nearly double the national average.
A national report released Monday found West Virginia leads the country in fatal overdoses, most of which involve prescription drugs.
More than 175,000 veterans live in West Virginia, one of the highest per-capita populations in the country, according to census data.
The Beckley VA Medical Center provided more than 150 prescriptions per 100 patients, the second-highest rate in the country during that period, according to the report. The Huntington VA Medical Center provided 145 prescriptions per 100 patients, the fourth-highest rate.
Any center providing more than 100 prescriptions per 100 patients is above the national average.
In addition to census data, the Center for Investigative Reporting relied on information collected through Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the U.S. Department of Veterans Assistance.
It looked at four types of medications in particular: oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and Methadone.
The data reflects little change in the number of patients each year but a massive jump in the number of prescriptions for the four medications.
From 2001 to 2012, nearly 165,000 patients were treated at the Beckley VA and more than 250,000 prescriptions were issued, according to the report.
In 2001, 13,865 patients were treated and 4,743 prescriptions were issued. With 60 fewer patients in 2012, there were 27,242 prescriptions.
There were never more than 14,450 patients treated by the Beckley VA during that period. Prescriptions peaked in 2011 at 28,524.
Hydrocone far outpaces prescriptions at the Beckley hospital for any of the other medications included in the report. In 2002, there were about 3,600 prescriptions for 14,450 patients. In 2012, there were 21,672 prescriptions for 13,805 patients.