Tuesday, 03 26, 2013
Shelley Catharine Johnson
Deputy Communications Director
Attorney General Conway took his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program to Boone County today, alerting students at Camp Ernst Middle School to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. Joined by Dr. Karen Shay, a dentist from Morehead, Ky. who lost a daughter to a prescription drug overdose, and Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, General Conway warned approximately 1,000 students about an epidemic that is devastating families in every corner of the Commonwealth.
"One of two things is going to happen if you abuse prescription drugs; you're either going to jail or the grave," General Conway said. "Kentucky loses more people today to prescription drug overdoses than traffic accidents. We've already lost a generation to this scourge; I want to make sure that we don't lose the next."
Prescription painkillers are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Driven by powerful painkillers like OxyContin, hydrocodone and Xanax, drug overdoses increased for the eleventh consecutive year in 2010, according to National Center for Health Statistics. More than 1,000 deaths each year in Kentucky are linked to prescription drug overdose.
Prescription painkillers are also fueling another epidemic in the Commonwealth.
"The misuse of prescription medications is often a stepping stone to the abuse of illicit drugs like heroin," said Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. "Tamper-proof formulations of popular opioids have also contributed to a resurgence of heroin abuse, and it's cheaper and more readily available."
To help raise awareness, General Conway and the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy jointly released a public service announcement (PSA) urging parents to look for the signs of heroin abuse. The PSA is also shown during the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe programs.
"The Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program is supporting Boone County Schools in our efforts to raise awareness about the disastrous dangers of prescription drug abuse," said Randy Poe, Boone County Schools Superintendent. "The well-being of our students is at the forefront of our efforts to ensure that all graduates are college, career and life ready. Therefore, we appreciate Attorney General Conway bringing this imperative message to our district."
Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse
Attorney General Conway also 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 .
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, are down, in some cases nearly 50 percent.
Additionally, the non-medical use of prescription pain relievers among all age groups in Kentucky is down and for the first time, Kentucky is below the national average for prescription drug abuse, according to the latest report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Attorney General Conway's office has also filed suit against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin for misrepresenting the addictive nature of the drug. A federal appeals court ruling has cleared the way for the case to be heard in Pike Circuit Court.
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 currently serves as co-chair of the Substance Abuse Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).