FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 13, 2012) — Attorney General Jack Conway and his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners are again traveling the state to warn Kentucky kids about the dangers of abusing prescription pills.
Joined by Van Ingram, the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, and concerned parent Mike Donta, Conway spoke to hundreds of students Wednesday at Marshall County’s Benton Middle School about the devastating toll prescription drug abuse is having on Kentucky.
“Three people will die today in Kentucky from a prescription drug overdose,” Conway said. “That’s more than 1,000 deaths a year. Kentucky loses more people to overdoses than traffic accidents. We cannot afford to lose another generation to this epidemic.”
Non-medical use or abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. Kentucky is the fourth most-medicated state in the country, according to an analysis by Forbes Magazine.
The 2010 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) Survey found that the highest rate of prescription drug use among 10th graders was in communities in western Kentucky. The Barren River and Pennyrile regions had the highest usage among sophomores at 9.1 percent and 8.1 percent respectively, followed by 7.7 percent in the Purchase area.
“One of our biggest problems in deterring drug abuse is the use of prescription medications by students who were not prescribed the drug,” said Ruthetta Buchanan, interim superintendent of Marshall County Schools. “Prescription meds are readily available in home medicine cabinets and often difficult to detect. Prescription drug abuse is no longer just a problem isolated to eastern Kentucky, but one being felt in communities here in western Kentucky and across the state.”
The severity of Kentucky’s prescription drug epidemic is also reflected in just released statistics on the number of babies born addicted to prescription painkillers.
“Hospitalization for addicted newborns soared from 29 in 2000 to 730 last year,” said Ingram, who requested the statistics from the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center. “That’s a more than 2,400 percent increase. By continuing to warn students across Kentucky about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, I am confident we can stop this epidemic and protect the next generation of Kentuckians.”
Conway launched Keep Kentucky Kids Safe in 2010 with the Kentucky Justice Cabinet and its Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE and Dr. Karen Shay and Lynn Kissick, two mothers from Morehead, Ky., who lost their daughters to prescription drug overdoses. Shay, Kissick and Donta, of Ashland, Ky., are among a growing number of parents who are participating in the statewide initiative.
“Kids have an important choice to make,” said Donta, whose son Michael died in 2010 after a long battle with prescription drug addiction. “If they choose to take prescription pills that are not prescribed to them by a doctor, there is a good chance they will end up like my son. No parent should have to endure the heartache of burying a child.”
To date, the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners have conducted prevention assemblies in nearly two-dozen schools across the state, alerting nearly 15,000 students to the deadly consequences of prescription pill abuse.
In addition to his public awareness efforts, Conway worked closely with Gov. Steve Beshear, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and other lawmakers to win passage of landmark legislation to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription pills in Kentucky. Earlier this week, Conway joined the governor, law enforcement and representatives from medical licensure boards to discuss the recent implementation of House Bill 1 and how it will save lives by expanding the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system (KASPER) and cracking down on illegal pill mills.
For more information on drug diversion efforts and the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, click here.