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Heroin in Kentucky.

Heroin abuse and addiction in Kentucky has reached epidemic proportions. Pain killer abuse has long been a problem for the Bluegrass State. The reputation Kentucky has for painkiller abuse and addiction has grown from the Lexington and Louisville areas to the entire state, but as the prices of these pills on the street have increased, the popularity of heroin as grown.

Heroin is a highly addictive illegal drug refined from morphine which is a naturally occurring substance extracted from certain plants in the poppy family. Many of the strongest and most widely used pain killers are also based on morphine and so can be just as addictive if taken improperly or over a long period of time.

Addiction to pain medications like oxycodone and hydromorphone has created a new route into the abuse and addiction to heroin, because it is often more available, cheaper and stronger than the pills. So switching from the pain meds to heroin is happening more and more frequently.

Heroin and narcotic pain killers are in the same category of drugs, opioids. When they enter the nervous system they can produce a feeling of euphoria, relaxation and happiness. They also reduce sensations of pain, both physical and emotional. This can be a perfect recipe for addiction.

In Kentucky heroin is known by many names, "white lady", "black tar", "smack", "brown sugar" and "big H" among others. But the heroin that we're seeing lately in Kentucky is too often laced with other drugs, some much more potent than the heroin itself, making a deadly powerful combination which creates waves of overdoses and death.

Additives such as fentanyl and now, carfentanil can increase the potency of heroin dangerously. Fentanyl is said to be 50 to 100 times more powerful that morphine. But carfentanil, also known as 'elephant heroin', is 100 to 1000 times more potent that fentanyl, 10,000 times the strength of morphine.

While, illegal drug dealers and suppliers are using these substances to stretch their products to make more money, the real price is paid by unsuspecting addicts who are overdosing in record numbers. According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, fentanyl related overdoses in KY in 2015 reached 420, up from 121 the previous year.

Illicit Drug Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older in Kentucky, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2010, 2011, and 2012 NSDUHs (Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

According to the State report, there were slightly fewer drug overdose deaths in 2010, down to 1,004, probably because of less use of prescription drugs, in Kentucky.

Kentucky State Government Agencies

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