College of Public Health

Michael Meit Publishes Book Chapter on Appalachian Addiction


Mike Meit

Michael Meit, Director of Research and Programs for the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health’s Center for Rural Health Research, has authored a chapter in the recently released book, From the Front Lines of the Appalachian Addiction Crisis.  The chapter, “Data Make You Credible, but Stories Make You Memorable,” discusses the importance of remembering the lives and families of those affected by the addiction crisis.

Meit’s journey with exploring substance misuse in the Appalachia resulted in a 2008 report for the Appalachian Regional Commission that analyzed mental health and substance use disparities, and access to treatment in the region.  The NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, co-directed by Meit at the time, found that communities impacted by methamphetamine were actually even more affected by prescription drug use and illicit opioids. 

In Meit’s chapter he describes how efforts to address substance misuse in the region often result in “squeezing the balloon”, causing the substance use crisis to change shape and form rather than disappear.  He emphasizes the importance of addressing underlying causes of addiction rather than inadvertently causing different forms of substance misuse to emerge.  Most recently, for example, the region has experienced a resurgence in methamphetamine use as access to opioids has been limited. Meit notes that where the data are lacking or unavailable to document these trends in a timely manner, it is critical to share the experiences of individuals with lived experience. 

“And that is where the stories told in this book become ever more important,” writes Meit.  “They provide the context and narrative that create a picture of what this drug crisis means for individuals, for families, for children, and for communities.”

The book’s editor, Wendy Welch, describes it as “a history document, showing how we got here; an evidenced indictment of current policies failing those who need them most; an affirmation that Appalachia solves its own problems; and a collection of suggestions for best practice moving forward.”