In 2017, 1565 people overdosed on drugs in Kentucky. Toxicology reports revealed the state’s most deadly drugs, but officials also worry about marijuana use. Keep reading to learn about the most used drugs in Kentucky.

1. Fentanyl

In 2017, 52% of people who overdosed had fentanyl in their blood. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, 50 times stronger than heroin. Sometimes, people seek fentanyl because of its intense high, but often, people buy drugs laced with fentanyl.

Here are some facts about fentanyl:

  • From 2011 to 2015, overdoses from this drug increased in all age groups.
  • The biggest increases were in people ages 25 to 34.
  • Some needle exchange programs offer test strips so people can check if their drugs are laced with fentanyl.

2. Morphine

Morphine was in 40% of overdose victims. That is 627 people. Often, morphine addictions start with a prescription, and to fight the epidemic, officials have charged some doctors for their involvement:

  • Federal prosecutors charged 60 doctors with illegally prescribing pain meds.
  • They handed out 32 million pills including morphine.
  • These doctors were based in Kentucky and four other states.

3. Alprazolam

Found in 36% of overdoses, alprazolam is a benzo used to treat anxiety. Often sold under the brand name Xanax, this drug is very dangerous if mixed with alcohol or other substances.

Here is a look at the Xanax issue in Kentucky:

  • This is one of the top three most prescribed drugs in Kentucky.
  • Between 2004 and 2008, there was a 89% increase in ER visits for Xanax.
  • To reduce abuse, a clinic in Louisville stopped prescribing Xanax.

4. Gabapentin

Involved in 31% of fatal overdoses, gabapentin is a painkiller, and it helps to stop seizures. Here is what you need to know:

  • Doctors used to prescribe this drug as a “safe” opioid alternative.
  • Now, many people use “gabbies” recreationally.
  • People use this drug to intensify the feeling of other opioids.
  • On its own, it doesn’t cause overdoses.
  • Instead, it leads to blackouts and increases the risk of overdosing.

5. Methamphetamine

Coroners found meth in 29% of overdose victims in Kentucky. Check out these facts about meth in Kentucky:

  • In 2011, Kentucky had 1235 meth labs.
  • By 2018, there were only 38 in the state.
  • Use of meth increased by 20% in overdoses.

6. Heroin

About 22% of overdoses involved heroin. To fight back, the state passed a heroin bill with these features:

  • 10 years in prison for bringing heroin into Kentucky.
  • Clean needle exchanges based on local approval.
  • Increased naloxone availability.
  • A “Good Smaritarian” rule to protect people from charges if they get help for someone overdosing.

7. Oxycodone

This prescription pain killer was found in 14% of overdoses, and people often get this drug from pharmacies. Take a look at these shocking stories about oxycodone in Kentucky.

  • After authorities discovered that a Florida pain clinic was a pill mill, they sentenced the owner to 29 years in prison. Nearly half the customers were from Kentucky.
  • Between 2006 and 2012, Shearer Drug in Albany, KY bought 6.8 million oxy and hydrocodone pills. That is more pain pills per capita than any other pharmacy in the country.
  • Fake pills designed to look like Oxycodone often contain deadly amounts of fentanyl. This creates a huge problem in Kentucky.

8. Hydrocodone

Also present in 14% of overdoses, hydrocodone is another synthetic opioid. If you add up all the synthetic opioids, they are linked to more overdoses than heroin.

Hydrocodone abuse usually starts with a prescription. Doctors over prescribe this drug and retailers dole it out too easily. These stories highlight the issue:

  • 23 hospitals are suing drug makers and retailers for their rule in the opioid epidemic. The hospitals are trying to recoup funds spent on caring for victims of this epidemic.
  • In Clay County, pharmacies sold 2.2 million doses of hydrocodone and over 600,000 doses of oxycodone. That is 150 doses for every single person in the county.
  • Dr. Michael Lee Cummings from Albany, KY prescribed the equivalent of 230 hydrocodone pills for every single resident of Albany. He was in the state’s top 1% for writing prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, and benzos. For his actions, he received 30 months in prison and a $400,000 fine.

9. Marijuana

The state did not publish how often marijuana was found in overdose victims. But officials claim this is the most used illicit drug in the state. In 2018, officials seized over 420,000 marijuana plants, and the state was in the top five for destroying marijuana.

If you are addicted to any of these drugs or alcohol, contact your local treatment center today. Treatment centers can help you beat your addiction. The first step is asking for help.  

Sources:

  1. Ableson, J. (n.d.). As overdoses soared, nearly 35 billion opioids — half of distributed pills — handled by 15 percent of pharmacies. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/the-opioid-crisis-15-percent-of-the-pharmacies-handled-nearly-half-of-the-pills/2019/08/12/b24bd4ee-b3c7-11e9-8f6c-7828e68cb15f_story.html
  2. Acquisto, A. (n.d.). Access Denied. Retrieved from https://www.kentucky.com/news/state/kentucky/article233990147.html
  3. Demio, T. (2019, April 17). Ohio, Kentucky doctors among 60 charged in pain pill bust acted ‘like drug dealers’. Retrieved from https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2019/04/17/opioid-pain-pill-federal-prescription-bust/3482202002/
  4. Doctors sound the alarm on “opioid alternative” gabapentin. (2018, April 2). Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gabapentin-opioid-alternative-doctors-warning-about-drug/
  5. Galewitz, P. (2017, February 7). The Pharmacies Thriving in Kentucky’s Opioid-Stricken Towns. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/02/kentucky-opioids/515775/
  6. Goodnough, A. (2011, September 14). In Louisville, a Center’s Doctors Cut Off Xanax Prescriptions. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/in-louisville-a-centers-doctors-cut-off-xanax-prescriptions.html
  7. Heroin and fentanyl overdoses in Kentucky: Epidemiology and surveillance. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S095539591730155X
  8. King, R. (2019, September 5). Kentucky hospitals sue drugmakers, distributors and retailers for opioid epidemic costs. Retrieved from https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals-health-systems/kentucky-hospitals-sue-drug-makers-distributors-and-retailers-for-opioid
  9. Office of Drug Control Policy. (n.d.). The Heroin-Fentanyl Epidemic. Retrieved from https://odcp.ky.gov/Pages/The-Heroin-Epidemic.aspx
  10. Thompson, A. (2019, December 3). Fake Prescription Pills A Problem In Ohio And Kentucky. Retrieved from https://radio.wosu.org/post/fake-prescription-pills-problem-ohio-and-kentucky#stream/0
  11. Tilley, Secretary, J. C. (n.d.). 2018 Combined Annual Report Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy and Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy. Retrieved from https://odcp.ky.gov/Reports/2018%20KYODCP%20KYASAP%20Combined%20Annual%20Report%20(Final).pdf
  12. Warren, B. (2019, March 27). Louisville arms drug users with tests to avoid No. 1 killer: fentanyl. Retrieved from https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2019/03/27/kentucky-opioid-crisis-louisville-fentanyl-test-helps-save-drug-users/2702648002/
  13. WKYT News Staff. (n.d.). Two Kentucky men sentenced in oxycodone conspiracy case. Retrieved from https://www.wkyt.com/content/news/Two-Kentucky-men-sentenced-in-oxycodone-conspiracy-case-558954641.html

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