Kentucky Overdose Deaths Level, but Heroin Deaths Increase

Aug 1, 2014

Heroin overdose deaths continue to rise in Kentucky.
Credit Eric Molina, Wikimedia Commons

A new report indicates the number of overdose deaths in Kentucky is leveling off. In 2013, there were one-thousand-and-seven drug overdoses statewide, just three more than the year before. The leader of Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy, Van Ingram said while he’s disappointed the numbers haven’t decreased, there are still bits of good news that can be found in the report.

“We watched these numbers grow by the hundreds for five years,” Ingram said. "So, that they’re leveling off steady for the last two years is a good sign—it’s not what I want, but it’s a good sign. And the number of deaths due to prescription opioids is down.”

Still, the number of overdose deaths related to heroin continues to climb. While the number of total overdoses remained steady in 2013, deaths caused by heroin increased more than 12-percent. Ingram said one way to combat the rising number of heroin deaths is increasing the availability of narcan, a drug used to halt the effects of opioid overdose. Ingram said emergency rooms have narcan and paramedics carry it.

“We’d like to see it in the hands of police officers, we’d like to see it in the hands of families of people who are at risk, and just as widespread as we can make it, because we can’t get people into treatment and we can’t help them turn their lives around once they’re lost,” Ingram said.

Ingram praised the Affordable Care Act for mandating health plan providers to offer substance abuse treatment under their primary care options. Bell County had the highest number of overdose deaths per one-thousand people last year with 93. That’s nearly double the number of deaths in Clinton County, which had the second-highest number of overdose fatalities per capita.