PARKERSBURG -Parkersburg police officers said they have identified several drug dealers in the area within the last five years that have confirmed ties with Mexican drug cartels.
The most recent investigations have revealed police have a few major players with apparent close, direct ties to the drug cartels currently living and operating in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
The top five most abused drugs in West Virginia are Oxycontin, Vicodin, Xanax, methadone and morphine.
The Parkersburg Police Department recovered 104 pounds of commercial marijuana, $26,332.16 in cash, a bullet-proof vest, a .40-caliber handgun and three vehicles at 1324 Avery St., on March 5, officials said.
Police said they ultimately have accurate information leading them to safely assume drugs are being distributed to the valley in the form of cocaine and heroin. Officials said they know there are organized and sophisticated groups of drug dealers functioning in the area at this time.
They spend a lot of money taking care of their "employees," task force agents said. By taking care of them, agents believe they are buying transportation and paying any court costs associated with an unfortunate arrest, right down to providing food and clothing.
The dealers are mostly from the Chicago, Detroit, Columbus and New York areas, police believe.
"We know that large organized drug networks send people to this area to distribute drugs," a Parkersburg police officer said. "The common information we receive from arrestee and informant interviews is that the drugs bring a significant profit here, as opposed to places where the supply is abundant."
Police said Columbus remains the biggest source city to the Mid-Ohio Valley. Officials have a phenomenal number of people in the area addicted to drugs, which ultimately fuels organized drug trafficking efforts.
A study done by the Health Statistics Center showed in 2008, for West Virginia alone, 390 people died from accidental overdoses involving prescription drugs. West Virginia has the highest rate of drug deaths in the nation. Between the years of 2001 and 2008, more than nine out of 10 deaths involved prescription drugs, statistics showed.
From 2007 to 2008 West Virginia was one of the top ten states for rates in several drug-related categories among adults between the ages of 18-25. The abuse stems from the use of cocaine, marijuana and other licit drugs.
About 7 percent of the state's residents reported using illegal drugs in the span of one month, studies showed. The rate of drug-induced deaths for the state is higher than the national average, reports said. Studies found that McDowell County (in the southern west corner of the state) has the fifth highest rate of drug poisoning deaths in the country at 38.3 deaths per 100,000 residents.