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Drug Abuse

Kentucky had a large amount of retail prescription drugs per capita in 2017 (18.4 per person) and was ranked first in 2017 by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation for the most medicated state in the U.S. While prescription medications offer valuable solutions for many serious maladies, they are widely abused as a recreational substance, along with other illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana, and meth.

Prescription drug abuse stems from so called "pill mills," medical facilities which prescribe large amounts of opioids, CNS depressants, or stimulants without medical justification. Often, these facilities only accept cash and do not examine patients or existing medical records. In 2015, Kentucky providers wrote 97 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons (4.47 million prescriptions). In the same year, the average U.S. rate was 70 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons.

Kentucky overdose fatalities increased in 2017. Out of the 1,565 overdose deaths that occurred in the state that year, 1,468 of those deaths were Kentucky residents. Of those deaths, 608 of were caused by fentanyl, 518 were caused by morphine, 363 by gabapentin, and 358 by methamphetamines.

Substance abuse treatment is widely available with over 330 treatment providers across the state. There are many drug abuse task forces in the state and the Recovery Kentucky Program has shown rehabilitative success. Since opening 14 100-bed recovery facilities, the Recovery Kentucky program provides treatment for over 2,000 Kentuckians. 

Drug abuse mitigation is a statewide responsibility. Although the full effect of drug abuse in the commonwealth cannot be known, the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy estimates that the loss of productivity, healthcare costs and drug-related crime ranges from $2.5 to $3.6 billion annually. The state has made resources available for individuals looking to end abuse in the lives of loved ones, their own lives, and their communities through treatment programs, tougher abuse-related laws, and reporting opportunities.

Drug abuse is a top priority for cities and the KLC legislative team will monitor any legislative activity pertaining to this issue.