HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Eradicating drug addiction in West Virginia’s communities will take a range of efforts in the view of the dean of Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

“The simple truth is we don’t have a one-size-fits-all strategy that’s effective against addiction,” said Dr. Joseph Shapiro.

Dr. Joseph Shapiro

West Virginia leads the U.S. in drug overdose deaths and Marshall University is located in one of the hardest hit Mountain State counties, Cabell County.

About a year into the work of a university task force charged in part with developing more effective addiction treatment programs, Marshall’s School of Medicine is expanding to include Dr. Daniel Langleben as the inaugural Maier professor and director of addiction sciences.

Before the recently announced Langleben hire, “What we didn’t have was a clinician-scientist who was really interested in the molecular basis of addiction and was able to translate that to clinical practice,” Shapiro told MetroNews.

“We think that we’ve added really a necessary arrow to our quiver in order to truly wage war on and beat this opiate addiction crisis.”

Langleben is currently an addiction psychiatry specialist and psychiatry professor in the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

He’s also an attending psychiatrist at Penn Medicine and the Philadelphia VA Medical Center along with an active researcher.

He’s received international recognition for the development of a technique to utilize functional magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, for lie detection, according to information from Marshall.

Scheduled to join Marshall University’s faculty full-time in August 2018, Shapiro said Langleben would be consulting with Marshall faculty and staff while finishing his work at Penn.

“This area (addiction treatment) is filled with very, very strong opinions about what’s the right thing to do and the truth is, I believe, we need more science to guide how we develop the treatment strategies to attack this problem,” Shapiro said.

Jerome Gilbert, Marshall University’s president, agreed.

He said Langleben’s hire was pivotal in his school’s response to what has been called one of the worst public health issues, if not the worst public health issue, threatening a generation.

“Dr. Langleben brings a breadth and depth of experience that will propel our university forward in the fight against all addictions,” Gilbert said.

The ultimate goal, Shapiro said, is a better West Virginia built by approaching addiction in different ways.

“We can’t sit and twiddle our thumbs and try to come up with strategies while we do nothing, but if we just employ the current strategies that we have, we’re not going to do very well because they’re not very effective,” he said.

The director of addiction sciences position is being funded with a $1.25 million gift from the Maier Foundation, a private, non-profit, charitable corporation for higher education.

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