Poll shows depth of prescription drug abuse in Kentucky

By Molly Burchett and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

One-third of Kentucky adults have friends or relatives who have experienced problems from abusing prescription pain relievers, and 8 percent have used pain medicine when it wasn’t prescribed or for the feeling it caused, according to a statewide poll conducted last fall.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that in Eastern Kentucky, 45 percent reported that prescription drug abuse have caused problems for friends or family members. In the 17-county Bluegrass Area Development District, which includes some Appalachian counties, the figure was 37 percent. It was 32 percent in Northern Kentucky, 31 percent in the seven-county Louisville area and 25 percent in Western Kentucky.

The poll found that young adults are more likely to have the problem. Among those 18 to 29 years old, 13 percent said they had used pain medicine when it wasn’t prescribed or for the feeling it caused, and 49 percent said they had a friend or relative who had been affected.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which co-sponsored the poll, noted that drug-overdose deaths in Kentucky correspond to a steep increase in the sales of opioid
prescription pain relievers, which include OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and codeine. More than half of Kentucky adults in the poll reported being prescribed such drugs.

“While these types of medications are important for controlling pain in patients who need them, opioids also carry the potential for abuse,” said Dr. Susan Zepeda, President and CEO of the foundation. “Our state ranks sixth in the nation for prescription pain reliever overdose deaths, and these data provide a window on how many Kentuckians are impacted – directly or indirectly – by prescription misuse.” (Read more)

The poll was conducted for the foundation and The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati from Sept. 20 through Oct. 14 by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 1,680 adults throughout Kentucky was interviewed by landline and cell telephones. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Kentucky Health News is an independent service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Health Kentucky.

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