Opioid abuse has reached a crisis level throughout the United States. However, it is more prevalent in some areas of the country than in others. Unfortunately, Kentucky is one of the states that the crisis has hit very hard.
Over the past 20 years, opioids have replaced marijuana as the most commonly abused illicit drug in the state. According to Landmark Recovery, the rate of deaths from overdoses in Kentucky is one of the highest in the country.
What are the most commonly abused opioids in Kentucky?
Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, are not only the most abused opioids in Kentucky but the most abused drugs overall. These drugs are extremely potent. Unfortunately, they are also easy to reproduce illicitly in a laboratory. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance with legitimate medical uses for anesthesia and pain relief. However, diversion of legitimate products for illicit purposes is very common. Carfentanil is a tranquilizer used on large animals but has no accepted medical use for humans.
How do people become addicted to opioids?
In many cases, people who become addicted to opioids first used them as prescriptions that doctors prescribed for pain. The rules for marketing these prescription medications underwent a relaxation in the mid-1990s. As a result, doctors started prescribing them more often. Many now-addicted patients turn to illicit opioids, such as heroin, which are easier and less expensive to obtain.
How common are overdose deaths in Kentucky?
In 2017, 1,160 people in Kentucky died from opioid overdoses. In 2018, that number reduced to 989. There was a 5% increase in Kentucky opioid deaths during 2020. Deaths from synthetic opioids remained stable at approximately 750 between 2017 and 2018, but overdose deaths from heroin and prescription opioids declined during the same time frame.
People accused of drug crimes in Kentucky may be able to go to drug court. Those who are eligible may be able to enter substance abuse programs that treat the underlying addiction in lieu of jail time.