In 2008, West Virginia had the nation's second highest rate of deaths from prescription painkillers, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The diversion of prescription pain medication for illegal purposes is one of the biggest problems we face in West Virginia," Col. C.R. Smithers of the West Virginia State Police said in a written statement. "It is my sincere belief that this measure will decrease the amount of hydrocodone available to those who do not possess a legitimate purpose."
Recent studies have highlighted the prescription drug epidemic in West Virginia.
A study from the Trust for America's Health found that prescription drug deaths in the state increased more than 600 percent between 1999 and 2010.
A recent study from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy found West Virginians on Medicare get far more prescriptions filled than almost anywhere else in the country.
And a study from the Center for Investigative Reporting found that some of West Virginia's veterans' hospitals lead the nation in the amount of prescription painkillers they prescribe.
A diverse array of lobbyists, from chain pharmacies and prescription drug makers to the American Cancer Society, have long argued against tightening restrictions on hydrocodone, saying it would make it more difficult for people in pain to get medication.
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.