More in state say they know someone hurt by use of heroin, especially in Northern Kentucky

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky chart; click on it for larger version

Northern Kentucky is the hotbed of heroin addiction in Kentucky, but use of the narcotic appears to be rising elsewhere in the state, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

Residents of Northern Kentucky residents are more than twice as likely as those elsewhere in Kentucky to report knowing someone with heroin problems, the poll found: 35 percent in Northern Kentucky and 13 percent statewide, with an error margin of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Figures for other areas were: Greater Louisville, 17 percent; greater Lexington, 14 percent; Appalachian Kentucky, 10 percent; and Western Kentucky, 8 percent.

Overall, the poll found that 13 percent of Kentucky adults knew someone who had experienced problems from using heroin, up from 9 percent in 2013 and 11 percent in 2014.

The poll also found, not surprisingly, that young adults between the ages of 18-29 are the most likely to know someone with problems due to heroin; 25 percent of them said they did, and the numbers grew smaller as the age group grew older.

Many people who were using prescription painkillers switched to heroin after the state cracked down on “pill mills” that dispensed the painkillers, but prescription drug abuse remains a problem. Statewide, 25 percent of adults reported having family members or friends who experienced problems as a result of abusing the drugs, the same figure since 2013. Eastern Kentucky led with 33 percent and Western Kentucky trailed with 16 percent. The poll found that younger, white, lower-income adults are more likely to know someone with problems because of prescription drug misuse.

“This information can help Kentucky policymakers as they devise strategies to curb our state’s drug problems,” said Susan Zepeda, President/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which co-sponsors the poll with Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

The foundation notes that Kentucky ranks second in drug overdose deaths, tied with New Mexico and lower than only West Virginia. “Drug overdose deaths in Kentucky have quadrupled from 241 in 2000 to 1,077 in 2014,” the foundation said. “Since 2008, more Kentucky adults have died each year from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle accidents.

The poll was conducted Sept. 17 through Oct. 7 by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 1,608 adults from throughout Kentucky was interviewed by telephone, including landlines and cell phones.

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