A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

New Interact for Health poll indicates an uptick in misuse of prescription pain medication in Kentucky


By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

More Kentuckians report knowing someone who is misusing prescription pain medication, according to a new poll.

Colleen Desmond, a researcher at Interact for Health, the group that conducted the survey, said the findings indicate prescription drug misuse continues to be a persistent problem statewide, despite the fact that overdose deaths have dropped.

The 2019 Kentucky Health Issues Poll asked Kentucky adults questions about pain-medication misuse and whether they believe addiction is a disease. (Photo by Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“We saw a slight uptick this year,” she said. “We saw about four in 10 Kentuckians who reported that they know someone who’s had a problem as a result of using or abusing prescription pain relievers. … That’s up from 30% in 2018.”

Nearly 10 million Americans age 12 and older have misused prescription pain relievers, according to federal data from 2018.

For help finding addiction treatment, visit findhelpnowky.org.

Desmond said the survey also found that 66% of adults in the Commonwealth believe addiction is a disease. Desmond added that out of those people, the majority said they believe it is both a mental and physical condition.

“The fact that we have about seven in 10 adults who think addiction is a disease is a good thing,” she said, “and we want to keep tracking that.”

She said increased public awareness of substance abuse might mean more residents are paying closer attention to patterns of pain medication use among family and friends.

“These findings are a little bit interesting because of the way we asked the question,” she said. “We asked about knowledge of use, rather than use itself. We can’t really separate out whether people are just more knowledgeable about use in the community vs. an uptick in use.”

When asked whether they would know how to help someone with an addiction disorder find treatment, only half of Kentucky adults answered yes, according to the survey.

The poll is online at healthy-ky.org, Kentucky overdose-death data is at odcp.ky.gov, and 2018 federal data is at samhsa.gov.


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