A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

KHIP: State mobilizing against complex issues around substance abuse disorders


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 from the 2018 Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP).

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.”

Methamphetamine, heroin 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 here.


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