When I left Richmond to come out to the mountains, I was amazed at the number of defendants that seemed to be dropping dead from overdoses before they could make it to trial. It seemed incredibly out of proportion to anything I'd seen before, but I didn't have any evidence to back up my observations.
Recently, while researching a paper I came across statistics showing the per capita deaths from drugs from the Virginia Medical Examiner and the results are fairly determinative.
|2003||Craig||Home City||Russell-1||Lee-1||Home County|
|2008||Dickenson-1||Home City||King & Queen||Buchanan-2||Highland|
Home County & City are the two jurisdictions I work in (Home County surrounds Home City). The red counties are those in Far South West Virginia (you know, the 4 hours of Virginia west of Roanoke) and the number next to the red counties is how far they are from Home County & City. Blue counties are east of West Virginia, but are mountain counties on the West Virginian border.
Now, if a mountain county appears once or twice it is probably a statistical anomaly. After all, the populations of these counties are much smaller than a NoVa county like Fairfax. What is disturbing about the chart is that the counties are consistently in the top 5 per capita. Two Far Southwestern counties are in 5 of the 6 years. Two others are on the chart for 3 of the 6 years. Furthermore, 25 of 30 are clustered in Far Southwestern Virginia counties. At this point it starts to look like we aren't looking at a statistical anomaly at all. Instead, we are looking at the level of fatalities when the primary abused drugs are "legal" pills.