Kentucky has the third highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States. Drug overdose deaths in Kentucky quadrupled between 1999 (4.9 per 100,000 people) and 2013 (23.6 per 100,000 people), and now kill more Kentuckians than traffic accidents.
While the state’s most abused drugs are marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine, pharmaceutical drug abuse is growing rapidly and creating an epidemic. More than 1,000 people die each year in Kentucky from the abuse of powerful prescription painkillers like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone.
The fourth most medicated state in the nation, one in five Kentucky teens has admitted to using prescription pills non-medically. The trafficking and illicit use of prescription drugs may be the most significant current drug threat now facing Kentuckians. In fact, recent reports show that one in three residents of the state have reported a family member or close friend abusing prescription drugs.
Prescription drug abuse
Across the United States, prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing substance problem. Prescription drug overdose deaths have become a top public health concern, now outnumbering overdose deaths from the abuses of heroin and cocaine combined.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health states that one-third of people 12 years old and over, who used drugs, began by taking prescription drugs prescribed to someone else.
“Fifty Americans die a day from prescription drug overdoses, and more than 6 million suffer from prescription drug abuse disorders,” said Andrea Gielen, ScD, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy. “This is a very real epidemic — and warrants a strong public health response.”
Southern Baptist church members, both youth and adult, are not exempt from the dangers and addictions of substance abuse. Kentucky pastors and congregations can be instrumental in helping to address, educate and prevent prescription opioid abuses, as well as the misuses of other dangerous substances. Here are some suggestions:
How Kentucky churches can help
– Observe SBC Sunday emphases, such as Substance Abuse Prevention Sunday on March 19, 2017. Plan a special service, and preach about substance abuse prevention from the pulpit. Make your congregation aware of the problem.
– Hold classes and seminars in your church and community to teach youth and adults the dangers of prescription opioid abuse. Provide literature, resources and emergency phone numbers for them to have at home. (See sidebar)
– Educate the congregation to understand the ingredients and side effects of Kentucky’s widely-used Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. Teach them to recognize the physical symptoms of prescription opioid abuse. (See below)
– Encourage parents and caretakers of children and youth to safely dispose of unused prescription medications, flushing them down the toilet or working with local pharmacists who sponsor drug take-back disposal programs.
– Research, check out, and make a list of qualified health care providers and drug/alcohol treatment centers in your area. Keep the information available and updated should you need to contact or make a referral.
– Partner with other churches and community leaders to address prescription opioid abuse.
– Teach church leadership how to deal with an opioid overdose emergency.2
Information on Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
Oxycodone is an opioid pain medication prescribed by physicians to treat moderate to severe pain. People who take Oxycodone are at high risk for addiction and dependence. The drug can cause respiratory distress and death when taken in high doses, or when combined with alcohol and other substances.
Other common brands of Oxycodone are Oxycontin, Roxicodone, and Oxecta. Related medications include: Fentanyl, Tramadol, Hydromophone, Codeine, and Meperidine (Demerol).3
Hydrocodone (also known as dihydrocodeinone) is a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from codeine, one of the opioid alkaloids found in the opium poppy. Prescribed by physicians to treat moderate to moderately severe pain, it is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the U.S. today, and is associated with more drug abuses than any other licit or illicit opioid. Hydrocodone’s street names are Hydro, Norco, and Vikes.
The use of Hydrocodone, like most other opioids, causes euphoria, sedation, and alters the perception of painful stimuli. Long term use can lead to dependence and addiction.4
Physical symptoms of opioids overdose are: clammy and cold skin, constricted pupils, slowed breathing, confusion, nausea or vomiting, extreme constipation, sleepiness, changes in behavior and attitude, uncontrolled actions, and bluish skin around the lips or under the fingernails.5
– For more information about substance abuse policies in Kentucky, click here. (From the ODCP, Office of Drug Control Policy: Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy.)
– To better understand prescription drug abuse, view a video series that features stories of Kentuckians touched by prescription drug abuse.
– Operation UNITE provides a toll-free treatment referral line for those seeking assistance with a drug addiction. (1-866-908-6483, M-F 8am-5pm). More information is available at this official website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
– Get Help Lex is an online resource for people seeking facilities and services for substance use disorder in or around Lexington, Ky. (1-859-415-9280)
– To view the Southern Baptist Convention’s website, recommending drug treatment programs for addiction and substance abuse by state, click here. The SBC recommended website specifically for Kentucky is found here. Call their 24/7 hot line and talk to a live counselor at this number: 866-923-1134. (WR)
Denise George, author of 30 books, is married to Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University.
1. Some information found at: http://www.healthyamericans.org/reports/drugabuse2013/release.php?stateid=KY. http://www.friendsofnarconon.org/drug_distribution_in_the_united_states/kentucky_drug_facts/kentucky_factsheet/; http://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse/Pages/default.aspx; Accessed: Jan. 13, 2017.
2. Some information found at: http://americanaddictioncenters.org/prescription-drugs/opiate-overdose/. Accessed: Jan. 13, 2017.
3. Information on Oxycodone found at: https://www.drugs.com/oxycodone.html. Accessed: Jan. 13, 2017.
4. Hydrocodone information found at: https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/drug_data_sheets/Hydrocodone.pdf. Accessed: Jan. 13, 2017.
5 Some information found at: http://americanaddictioncenters.org/prescription-drugs/opiate-overdose/. Jan. 13, 2017.