Drug Overdoses Contribute To Rise In Midlife Mortality In Ohio River Valley

Main Street, St. Clairsville, Ohio (population about 5,000), the county seat of Belmont County. MELISSA BLOCK/NPR

The Ohio River Valley has seen some of the largest jumps in mortality rates among people in midlife — those between ages 25 and 64 — in recent years. Appalachia has been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic, and Ohio and West Virginia have suffered the worst, with the highest rates of overdose deaths.

Since the drug epidemic started spiraling out of control, Detective Sgt. Randy Stewart with the sheriff's office in Belmont County, Ohio, has seen the effects tear families up.

"Going out, taking these young kids in body bags and seeing how it crushes the parents — it's tough," Stewart says.