Thursday, 09 26, 2013
Attorney General Conway took his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to Shelby County today, alerting students at Shelby County High School to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. Joined by Mike Donta, an Ashland, Ky. father who lost his son to prescription drug addiction, and Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, General Conway warned approximately 1,300 students about an epidemic that is devastating families in every corner of the Commonwealth.
"Just because it comes in a container with a doctor's name on it does not mean it is okay for you to take," General Conway said. "If a friend offers you a pill that isn't prescribed to you, you are playing a very dangerous game."
Nationally, prescription painkillers are now the number one cause of accidental death in the United States, and in Kentucky, approximately three people die each day from prescription drug overdoses.
Prescription painkillers are also fueling another epidemic in the Commonwealth.
"We have a new problem in the resurgence of heroin," said Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. "The same active ingredient in heroin is in prescription painkillers, and the misuse of prescription medications is often a stepping stone to the abuse of heroin. It's cheaper and more readily available."
Students also heard from Mike Donta, whose son died in 2010 at the age of 24 following a three-year battle with prescription pill addiction.
"No one is exempt from the effects of drug abuse," Donta said. "My son made some bad choices and those choices cost him his life. If I can reach out and help save just one student, this is all worth it."
Since launching the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program in 2010 with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE and concerned parents, General Conway and his partners have alerted more than 25,000 middle and high school students to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.
"Our students need to understand the consequences of abusing any drug, especially ones they can access so readily," said Eddie Oakley, principal at Shelby County High School. "Programs such as this one bring awareness and knowledge, and they go a long way toward combating issues our students face."
Today's program comes amid clear signs that Kentucky is making progress in its fight against the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. According to the latest report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the non-medical use of prescription pain relievers among all age groups in Kentucky is down and for the first time, the state is below the national average for prescription drug abuse.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG DIVERSION EFFORTS
In addition to his awareness efforts, Attorney General Conway launched Kentucky's first and only statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force in August of 2009. The task force has been involved in more than 430 prescription drug diversion investigations, including Operation Flamingo Road, the state's largest prescription drug bust that resulted in the arrests of more than 500 people.
General Conway worked closely with Gov. Steve Beshear, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Senate President Robert Stivers and other lawmakers to win passage of landmark legislation in 2012 to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription pills in the Commonwealth. Since its passage, nearly half of Kentucky's pain clinics have shut their doors and prescriptions for the most abused and diverted drugs, like oxycodone, hydrocodone and Opana, have significantly decreased.
In addition to the work being done here in the Commonwealth, General Conway reached across party lines to work with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to ensure that her state implemented an electronic prescription drug monitoring system similar to Kentucky's KASPER system. Together they have worked to shut down the pill pipeline between Florida and Kentucky and to see that all 50 states have prescription drug monitoring programs in place and that all of the programs can share data across state lines.
Attorney General Conway and General Bondi currently serve as co-chairs of the Substance Abuse Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).
FACES OF PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE
Attorney General Conway invites Kentuckians of all ages to share their stories about how prescription drug addiction has affected their families and communities through his "Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse" video series. Videos may be submitted as part of a "video response" to any Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse clips available on the Attorney General's website at http://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse .