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Survivors of drug abuse herald new Kentucky laws aimed at opioid crisis at Capitol ceremony

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Two examples of lives nearly wrecked by opioid abuse underscored the importance of three new laws aimed at the drug-abuse crisis in Kentucky.

Amy Compston of Ashland and Alex Elswick of Lexington shared their stories in a ceremony at the Capitol Tuesday.
One of the laws limits the prescribing of opioids to a three-day supply, with some exceptions, and increases penalties for those who traffic in Fentanyl, carfentanil, or fentanyl derivatives.  The two others are intended to reduce overdose deaths by strengthening regulations and information sharing capabilities for physicians and pharmacies within Kentucky.

Amy Compston speaks at ceremony.

Compston said she started using drugs when she was 14 and overdosed twice along the way.
“It started with a Percocet prescription and spun rapidly out of control,” she said.

Even after getting help on those overdoses, she couldn’t escape the drug trap that had become part of her young life.

“As a typical drug addict, what did I do? I went right back to the same so-called friends, the same lifestyle, and graduated to harder drugs – heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, acid, crystal meth – anything I could get my hands on,” she said.

Compston said she turned to God in July 2012 and it turned her life around.  The marathon runner is a co-founder of Amy For Africa, a faith-based Christian ministry that supports and builds Christian schools in Uganda. A registered nurse, she stepped down to focus her full attention to Amy For Africa in March.

Elswick, another former opioid addict, said he started abusing drugs at 18, after being prescribed Oxycodone when he had his wisdom teeth removed.

“I ended up with dry sockets in my mouth and got a second prescription,” Elswick said. “For someone with a genetic predisposition to addiction and clinical anxiety, it was like throwing a match on the fuel.”

Elswick spent the next three years of his life buying Oxycodone on the street, descending deeper into addiction. 

“When Oxycodone got scarce, I began using heroin, and ended up sleeping under a bridge in Dayton, Ohio.”

Six months at the Salvation Army in Dayton helped him overcome his addiction.  He has co-founded Voices of Hope Lexington to help others who are going through the same thing.

Gov. Matt Bevin said a staggering number of pills are prescribed in Kentucky in a single year.

“Seventy-nine pills for every man, woman and child in Kentucky is ridiculous,” he said.

Tom Latek can be reached at tom.latek@kentuckytoday.com

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