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Heroin, Methamphetamine Use and Prescription Drug Abuse Continue to Have Significant Impact on Kentuckians

Feb 6, 2019

Nearly a third of Kentucky adults (31%) reported that they have a friend or family member who has experienced problems in the past 12 months as a result of using drugs, according to data released today from the 2018 Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

The KHIP data is consistent with other statistics showing the prevalence of substance use disorders in the commonwealth: Kentucky reported 1,566 overdose deaths in 2017 and its rate of 37.2 overdose deaths per 100,000 population is the fifth highest in the U.S.

KHIP is sponsored by Interact for Health and Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

“Addressing the epidemic of substance abuse in our region is a complex task,” said O’dell Moreno Owens, M.D., M.P.H., President and CEO of Interact for Health. “But these data affirm that it is worth undertaking, as drug use continues to impact our friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors. Our region has mobilized around the issue, bringing together partners to share data and enact promising strategies to respond to addiction. This work is critical and should continue.”

Majority with substance use disorders able to access to treatment

For the first time, KHIP looked at whether or not members of our community have accessed substance abuse treatment programs. The 31% of KHIP respondents who said that they had a friend or family member who had experienced problems as a result of using drugs were then asked whether that person had entered treatment. Of those, more than half (54%) said the individual had entered a treatment program. The graphic below shows how the person accessed treatment.

“With access to substance abuse treatment, people with addiction can stop using drugs and regain control of their lives,” said Owens. “The KHIP data show that while the path to recovery may vary, people in Kentucky are accessing treatment programs. We must work to ensure that access is expanded to reach more people, and that individuals are linked to evidence-based programs to appropriately address their medical, psychological and social needs.”

Reports of methamphetamine, heroin use continue to rise; prescription drug abuse remains steady

Finally, KHIP asked all respondents if they knew someone who had experienced problems due to the use or abuse of specific drugs. Problems because of abuse of prescription drugs continued to be the most commonly reported, by 3 in 10 adults (30%). More than 2 in 10 adults knew someone with problems due to using either methamphetamine (22%) or heroin (22%). While abuse of prescription drugs has remained steady since first measured by KHIP in 2011, reports of family or friends with problems from methamphetamine and heroin use have both risen since first measured in 2013.

Use of methamphetamine and heroin varied by region. Northern Kentucky adults were more likely to know someone with problems due to heroin use, while adults in Eastern Kentucky were more likely to know someone with problems due to methamphetamine use. Full data by region can be found at

About the Kentucky Health Issues Poll

The 2018 Kentucky Health Issues Poll was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health. It was conducted Aug. 26-Oct. 21, 2018, by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 1,569 adults from throughout Kentucky was interviewed by telephone. This included 697 landline interviews and 872 interviews with cell phone users. In 95 of 100 cases, the statewide estimates will be accurate to ±2.5%. There are other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as nonresponse, question wording or context effects that can introduce error or bias. For more information about the Kentucky Health Issues Poll, please visit or

About Interact for Health

Interact for Health is improving the health of all people in our region. We serve as a catalyst by promoting health equity through grants, education, research, policy and engagement. To amplify the impact of our work, Interact for Health focuses on three strategic priorities: reducing tobacco use, addressing the opioid epidemic and ensuring that children have access to health care through school-based health centers. We are an independent foundation that serves 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

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