New war on drugs takes aim at America's heroin epidemic

This is Huntington, West Virginia. When the war on drugs failed, this town was one of its casualties.

"Well, probably 60 percent or more of the DUIs are actually heroin and not alcohol," said Jan Rader, a deputy chief for the Huntington Fire Department.

"The driver told troopers he had an addiction to prescription opioids and that he'd received an injection earlier that day," WSAZ later reported.

Number of drug overdose deaths per state

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Drug overdose deaths per state, 2015
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Drug overdose deaths per state, 2015

North Dakota

Deaths per 100,000: 2.7

(Photo by Ben Harding via Getty Images)

South Dakota

Deaths per 100,000: 6.4

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Nebraska

Deaths per 100,000: 7.3

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Iowa

Deaths per 100,000: 8.7

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Minnesota

Deaths per 100,000: 9.4

(Photo by Andrey Krav via Getty Images)

Virginia

Deaths per 100,000: 9.5

(Photo via Getty Images)

Texas

Deaths per 100,000: 9.8

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New York

Deaths per 100,000: 10.6

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Mississippi

Deaths per 100,000: 10.7

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Georgia

Deaths per 100,000: 10.8

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Kansas

Deaths per 100,000: 11.1

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California

Deaths per 100,000: 11.3

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Hawaii

Deaths per 100,000: 11.8

(Photo by Richard Akuaten via Getty Images)

Maine

Deaths per 100,000: 11.9

(Photo by James Metcalf via Getty Images)

Illinois

Deaths per 100,000: 11.9

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Alabama

Deaths per 100,000: 12

(Photo by Rob Hainer via Getty Images)

Arkansas

Deaths per 100,000: 12.1

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Oregon

Deaths per 100,000: 12.5

(Photo by Bob Pool via Getty Images)

Idaho

Deaths per 100,000: 12.8

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Vermont

Deaths per 100,000: 12.9

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South Carolina

Deaths per 100,000: 13

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North Carolina

Deaths per 100,000: 13

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Wisconsin

Deaths per 100,000: 13.1

(Photo by Henryk Sadura via Getty Images)

New Jersey

Deaths per 100,000: 13.1

(Photo by Denis Tangney Jr. via Getty Images)

Connecticut

Deaths per 100,000: 13.1

(Photo by Sean Pavone via Getty Images)

Maryland

Deaths per 100,000: 13.4

(Photo by Sean Pavone via Getty Images)

Montana

Deaths per 100,000: 13.4

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United States average

Deaths per 100,000: 13.5

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Massachusetts

Deaths per 100,000: 13.7

(Photo via Corbis)

Florida

Deaths per 100,000: 13.9

(Photo via Alamy)

Washington

Deaths per 100,000: 14.1

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Louisiana

Deaths per 100,000: 14.4

(Photo via Alamy)

Michigan

Deaths per 100,000: 14.5

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New Hampshire

Deaths per 100,000: 14.5

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Washington, D.C.

Deaths per 100,000: 14.9

(Photo by Mark Segal via Getty Images)

Alaska

Deaths per 100,000: 15.3

(Photo by Sam Diephuis via Getty Images)

Colorado

Deaths per 100,000: 15.8

(Photo by David Parsons via Getty Images)

Indiana

Deaths per 100,000: 15.8

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Wyoming

Deaths per 100,000: 16.4

(Photo by Getty Images)

Missouri

Deaths per 100,000: 16.4

(Photo by Henryk Sadura via Getty Images)

Delaware

Deaths per 100,000: 17.2

(Photo by Ron Chapple via Getty Images)

Tennessee

Deaths per 100,000: 17.6

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Arizona

Deaths per 100,000: 18.1

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Pennsylvania

Deaths per 100,000: 18.7

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Ohio

Deaths per 100,000: 18.9

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Rhode Island

Deaths per 100,000: 19.6

(Photo via Kenneth C. Zirkel via Getty Images)

Oklahoma

Deaths per 100,000: 20.3

(Photo via Getty Images)

Utah

Deaths per 100,000: 21.9

(Photo via Getty Images)

Nevada

Deaths per 100,000: 22.4

(Photo by Andrew Zarivny via Shutterstock)

Kentucky

Deaths per 100,000: 24

(Photo via Getty Images)

New Mexico

Deaths per 100,000: 24.4

(Photo via Getty Images)

West Virginia

Deaths per 100,000: 32.4

(Photo by Stan Rohrer via Getty Images)

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Here's how serious the heroin epidemic is in Huntington. While the national overdose rate stands at 13 people in 100,000, West Virginia's rate is almost three times that, the highest of any state in the nation. This county's rate doubles that. And the rate for overdose rates in Huntington itself? About nine times the national average. On August 15, the problem came to a head. 28 overdoses in four hours.

"The drug war failed this country."

Jim Johnson is Huntington's drug czar. He was the chief of police, he ran the jail, and now he has this to say.

"If you would've told me three or four years ago that I would be a proponent of drug courts and harm reduction programs, syringe exchanges, there's no way I would've been," Johnson said. "I would've thought those were the type of things that would've enabled, but I've come to understand what enabling is. When you know families and people that have had drug problems and you didn't say anything. And then you carry their casket. That's enabling."

Today, Huntington is fighting a new kind of drug war, or at least new to West Virginia. And it's based on the idea that addiction is a disease to be treated, not just a crime to be punished.

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