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Survey: Northern Kentuckians More Likely to Know Someone Affected by Heroin

New details released this week from the Kentucky Health Issues Poll, conducted last fall by Interact for Health and Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, indicate that people living in Northern Kentucky are far more likely to know someone affected by heroin use than people in the rest of the state.

Roughly one in ten Kentucky adults (11 percent) report family or friends who have experienced problems as a result of heroin use. This is similar to results from 2013, when 9 percent of respondents knew someone who had experienced a problem as a result of heroin use. However, the rate is much higher in some portions of the state. Nearly three in ten adults in Northern Kentucky (26 percent) know someone who has experienced problems as a result of heroin use.

Prescription drug abuse also remains an issue.

One in five Kentucky adults (24 percent) report that a family member or friend has experienced problems as a result of abusing prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, or codeine. This is down from previous years. 

"Since 2011, all five regions of Kentucky have seen a decline in the percent of adults who report knowing friends and family members who have experienced problems as a result of abusing prescription pain relievers," says Ann Barnum, Senior Program Officer, Healthy Choices about Substance Use, Interact for Health. Eastern Kentucky, Greater Louisville, and Greater Lexington have seen significant declines.

“Even with the decline in those who know someone with problems from prescription drug misuse, the issue remains of major concern,” said Barnum.

Kentucky ranks third worst in the nation for drug overdose deaths, behind only West Virginia and New Mexico. Drug overdose deaths per capita have quadrupled since 1999, surpassing motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in Kentucky. Data released by the Kentucky Injury and Prevention Center (KIPC) reported 980 overdose fatalities in 2013. KIPC found that while prescription drug overdose deaths have continued to decline, those from heroin continued to increase, causing 200 overdose deaths in 2013, up 55 percent from 2012.

Older Kentucky residents are less likely to report having friends or family members who have experienced problems as a result of drug abuse. Adults 18 to 29 are more likely to know someone who has experienced problems as a result of using both prescription pain relievers and heroin than their older counterparts.      

-Staff report

Photo: Heroin needles found on street/RCN file