Study: Northern Kentuckians 3 times more likely to know someone who abuses heroin than rest of state

CINCINNATI --  Northern Kentuckians are three times as likely as others in residents of the state to know someone who has experienced problems with heroin abuse.

That information comes from the 2013 Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP), which shows that 3 in 10 residents of the region (30 percent) said they know a friend or family member dealing with problems as a result of using the drug.

“In Northern Kentucky, the percentage of people who know someone who has had problems as a result of heroin use is more than triple the percentage of other regions in the state,” said Mary Francis, program officer for Interact for Health , which co-commissioned the study along with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

The number drops to 1 in 10 (7 to 8 percent) in other regions of the Commonwealth, but it's still a considerable problem across the state.

In 2011, there were 22 overdose deaths involving heroin across the state. Available numbers for  2013 indicate there were 242. Overall, Kentucky ranks third in the nation for drug overdose deaths, behind only West Virginia and New Mexico.

“Drug overdose deaths per capita in Kentucky have quadrupled since 1999, surpassing motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the Commonwealth,” Francis said.

A few weeks into the 2014 legislative session, bills are making their way to the floor, as did Eric Specht, of Fort Thomas, Ky., who talked to lawmakers about how a bill they area voting on might have saved his son’s life.

WCPO reached out to the office of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear for comment on the findings in the report and the proposed legislative efforts in the state capital of Frankfort, Ky. He responded with the following statement:

Over the past six years, my administration has worked with the General Assembly to address the Commonwealth’s substance abuse issues. I have signed into law measures to reduce methamphetamine labs, ban synthetic drugs, and most recently, address the prescription drug epidemic in a meaningful way.

But substance abuse is an ever-changing problem and unfortunately, heroin has made a resurgence across the country as well as in Kentucky.

Increased heroin usage demands that we take a more aggressive response to punishing major traffickers of this drug and increase access to those who need treatment.

RELATED: L awmakers discuss their proposed solutions for heroin epidemic plaguing Northern Kentucky
MORE: More information about Kentuckians’ misuse of prescription and illegal drugs

The study released Thursday revealed that the drug problem in the Commonwealth is much bigger than just heroin. Approximately 15 percent of adults in Kentucky admitted to having a friend or family member who has experienced problems as a result of using methamphetamine, according to the new findings. 

The research shows young adults between 18 and 29 years of age were more likely than older adults to report having a family member or friend who has experienced problems as a result of drug use.

In addition to heroin and methamphetamine, which were listed in the study for the first time this year, prescription pain relievers are a problem across the state. More than 1 in 4 Kentucky adults reported knowing someone who has experienced problems with abusing prescription pain relievers, according to the KHIP.

The data shows that 27 percent of Kentuckians have family members or friends who’ve abused drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet or codeine. That number is actually down from previous years.

About the Kentucky Health Issues Poll

The 2013 Kentucky Health Issues Poll was funded by Interact for Health and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

Research was conducted in 2013 from Oct. 25 through Nov. 26, by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati.

A random sample of 1,551 adults from throughout Kentucky was interviewed by telephone. This included 951 landline interviews and 600 cellphone interviews with cell phone users. In 95 of 100 cases, the statewide estimates will be accurate to ± 2.5 percent, researchers stated.

There are other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording or context effects that can introduce error or bias.

Interact for Health, formerly The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, improves the health of people in the Cincinnati region by being a catalyst for health and wellness. The nonprofit organization promotes healthy living through grants, education and policy throughout 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

For more information about the Kentucky Health Issues Poll, please visit www.interactforhealth.org/kentucky-health-issues-poll or www.healthy-ky.org .

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