By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Drug-overdose deaths in Kentucky rose 49% in 2020, according to the state’s latest annual report.
“In addition to the stress caused by the pandemic, we believe the increase in overdose deaths for 2020 is due to a rise in illicit fentanyl and its analogues within the drug supply. The problem is also exacerbated by the widespread availability of potent, inexpensive methamphetamine,” Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said in a news release.
The state recorded 1,964 overdose deaths in 2020, the highest number recorded to date.. That was 648 more than in 2019, when 1.316 were recorded. It is also 498 more overdose deaths than in 2017, when the state recorded its last record high for overdose deaths, 1,566.
Toxicology reports show that fentanyl was involved in 1,393 of the overdose autopsies, or approximately 71% of all overdose deaths for the year. Acetylfentanyl, another version of the drug, was found in 502 of the cases.
Heroin was involved in 191 of the 2020 overdose deaths, an increase from 166 in 2019. Also seeing increases from the prior year were morphine, detected in 504 cases; alprazolam, 237 cases; gabapentin, 390 cases; methamphetamine, 801 cases; and oxycodone, 198 cases.
“Deaths attributed to overdose in 2020 are a somber reminder that the opioid epidemic continues to deeply impact our commonwealth . . . Opioid response is complex and our success will be dependent on our willingness to unite in a shared responsibility to end the stigma and discrimination against substance use disorders and build an equitable system of care that engages and empowers individuals and their families to lead healthy, fulfilling lives,” Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said in the release.