Study finds Martinsville has highest number of opioid prescriptions in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control released findings on Friday

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – A study finds patients in the City of Martinsville are prescribed more opioids than anywhere else in the country. That's according to a Centers for Disease Control report released on Friday. Now, the city says it's taking a proactive step to combat the issue.

Earlier this year, the Martinsville Memorial Hospital announced it has seen a 40 percent increase in emergency room visits due to opioid overdoses over last year. There were 21 of those overdoses just from prescription pills in January alone, but those numbers aren't shocking to police and first-responders who see this type of thing every day, and who are doing everything they can to curb the trend.

"We're just seeing a lot more prescription medications being abused on the streets," said Sergeant Ben Peters with the Martinsville Police Department.

Peters says as more people get their hands on opioids in his city, more are getting caught.

"Through the past two round-ups, we've had 53 different warrants issued in reference to the sale or abuse of opioids, and 22 individuals listed in those indictments," said Peters.

But first responders say there are many who police don't catch until it's too late.

"The overdoses... Most of the ones that I've seen are prescription, so it's either accidental or purposely," said Paramedic Daniel Hill with the Martinsville Fire Department.

It's a stark contrast to other areas dealing with heroin or fentanil. In Martinsville, people are getting the pills prescribed to them at an alarming rate. Doses of opioids are measured in morphine milligram equivalents (MME). An average dose is 40 MME's, but in Martinsville, people are getting an average of more than 4000 every year.

"That was an alarming number, but with this, we're hopeful with this task force we're going to be able to combat that and hopefully lower that soon," said Peters.

That task force was created this year in Martinsville to fight addiction with education.

"Every Saturday, for approximately three hours, we go out through different neighborhoods in the city and pass out information on opioid abuse," said Peters.

Police are also working to get the pills themselves off the streets.

"In April, we took back 118 pounds of unused prescription medications from people in the community, so just getting those prescriptions off the street lowers the potential for abuse," said Peters.

Police also have one officer that specifically works with the DEA to monitor doctors prescribing those medications in the city. The hope is to bring those prescriptions down, so in the future, Martinsville won't be known as the pill capital of the United States.