Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Poll provides more evidence that heroin use is increasing in Ky.; Chandler calls state's opioid epidemic 'truly shocking'

People in health care and law enforcement know that heroin use in Kentucky has increased, and that the state still has a big problem with prescription opioids. Now a statewide poll shows that Kentuckians at large are more collectively aware of the problems, too.

The latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that 17 percent of Kentucky adults know someone who is using heroin, up from 9 percent in 2013 and 13 percent in 2015. It also found that 27 percent of Kentucky adults say they know someone who has abused prescription pain medication. That was within the poll's error margin of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The poll was taken Sept. 11 through Oct. 19 for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, a Cincinnati-area foundation.

A news release from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky noted that statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that heroin use has increased sharply across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels.

Ben Chandler
"The country, and Kentucky in particular, are facing an opioid epidemic that is truly shocking," said Foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler. "Kentuckians are seeing friends and family members struggle with addiction, and the increase in heroin use is particularly alarming. Heroin overdose rates are climbing across the country, and Kentucky is no exception."

The poll showed that Northern Kentucky was the place most likely for adults to report that they had family members or friends who had experienced problems because of substance use. In the eight counties comprising the region, 36 percent reported knowing a friend or family member who had problems due to heroin, and almost 30 percent knew someone who abused prescription pain medications.
While heroin was less of a problem in Western Kentucky, that region appears to be experiencing problems with prescription-drug abuse and methamphetamines; 24 percent of adults there said they knew someone with a prescription-drug problem, and 21 percent knew someone who had a meth problem.

"Kentucky's experience with both prescription and illicit opioid abuse has been more severe and longer-lived than that of most other states," the news release said. "This year, the foundation's Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum will focus exclusively on the substance use crisis in Kentucky. The free public forum will take place Monday, Sept. 25, in Lexington."

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