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Poll: Amid Heroin Crisis, Prescription Drugs Still Concern Kentuckians

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While the heroin epidemic continues to make news, prescription drug abuse is still in the forefront of the minds of Kentuckians. That’s according to a new pollout Tuesday from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

According to the poll, 1 in 3 people in Eastern Kentucky know someone who’s had problems as a result of prescription pain reliever abuse. That compares to 1 in 6 people in the same region knowing someone who’s abused heroin. In Louisville, 1 in 4 four people know someone who’s been addicted to heroin or prescription drugs.

“It started with the abuse of prescription opioids — opioid painkillers that were prescribed by doctors,” said Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

In Northern Kentucky, 1 in 3 residents know someone who has used heroin, according to the poll. Chandler said that could be because the region sits in a prime location for drug trafficking.

“I think the people that sell heroin targeted the greater Cincinnati area before they targeted anywhere else," he said. "It’s easier to get to because it’s on I-75, which is a known pipeline for drug dealers. We’re trying to figure out how to deal with it.”

The poll asked Kentuckians: “Have any of your family members or friends experienced problems as a result of using methamphetamine?” Nearly 1 in 5 Kentucky adults answered yes.

“The question was asked in that way because you’re not going to get a real answer if you just ask them do you use heroin,” Chandler said.

Adults in rural counties were more likely to answer yes than adults in urban or suburban counties.

In 2015, 1,219 people died from drug overdoses in Kentucky. That's nearly five times as many as in 2000. Most of the deaths were from opioid use: either the misuse of prescription pain medications or the use of heroin, according to the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky surveyed 1,580 people between September and October of 2016. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.

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