drugs

Bowling Green and Warren County are joining a growing list of communities establishing needle exchange programs. 

In 2015, the Kentucky General Assembly approved a measure allowing local governments to set up the exchanges in response to the state’s heroin epidemic.  The aim is to prevent the spread of disease such as HIV and Hepatitis. 

The Barren River District Health Department serves an eight-county region including Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Simpson, and Warren Counties.  From January 2014 to April of this year, the region saw more than 600 cases of Hepatitis-C. 

Warren County's needle exchange, which begins Thursday, will allow any drug user to come to the health department and anonymously swap dirty needles for clean ones. 

In this interview, Lisa Autry spoke with Dennis Chaney, director of the Barren River District Health Department.

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Kentucky’s leaders are grappling with how to get more of the state’s residents into the labor force. 

In 2015, the commonwealth ranked 46th in the nation for its workforce participation rate, according to Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner.  The rate is determined by the number of adults between the ages of 21 and 65 who are able to work.

Kentucky Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey says employers are frustrated that too many prospective workers can’t pass drug tests.

"Of the worst 220 counties in America, 54 of those counties are here in the state of Kentucky, where the drug scourge and epidemic is just sucking the life out of us, if you would," Ramsey told WKU Public Radio.

Kentucky has about 130,000 able-bodied residents who choose not to work.

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Once people realized that opioid drugs could cause addiction and deadly overdoses, they tried to use newer forms of opioids to treat the addiction to its parent. Morphine, about 10 times the strength of opium, was used to curb opium cravings in the early 19th century. Codeine, too, was touted as a nonaddictive drug for pain relief, as was heroin.

Those attempts were doomed to failure because all opioid drugs interact with the brain in the same way. They dock to a specific neural receptor, the mu-opioid receptor, which controls the effects of pleasure, pain relief and need.

Now scientists are trying to create opioid painkillers that give relief from pain without triggering the euphoria, dependence and life-threatening respiratory suppression that causes deadly overdoses.

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For those working daily to treat addiction tied to the opioid epidemic in the Ohio Valley, resources have been limited. Beginning this week doctors will have a little more to work with.

The federal government will allow doctors to treat more patients with buprenorphine, a medication that can help ease people away from addiction.

While the science supports this treatment, some remain skeptical. Visits to three treatment centers in the region show the different approaches people in the recovery community are taking. In the fight against the addiction crisis, it appears there is no single silver bullet.

“Hi, James”

In a Louisville halfway house for inmates and parolees, a group of men gathered to offer support to one another as they work through addiction in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

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Twice a day, Angela and Nate Turner of Greenwood, Ind., put tiny strips that look like tinted tape under their tongues.

"They taste disgusting," Angela says.

But the taste is worth it to her. The dissolvable strips are actually a drug called Suboxone, which helps control an opioid user's cravings for the drug. The married couple both got addicted to prescription painkillers following injuries several years ago, and they decided to go into recovery this year. With Suboxone, they don't have to worry about how they'll get drugs, or how sick they'll feel if they don't.

"You can function, but you're not high," Angela says. "It's like a miracle drug. It really is."

A body of evidence now shows that medications such as Suboxone are effective in putting the brakes on opioid use disorder, when used in conjunction with counseling. For Angela, the treatment means she can take care of their 3-year-old, and Nate can keep a job.

But because of some companies' insurance rules, getting started on Suboxone — and staying on it — can be difficult.

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Kentucky is undergoing rapid changes in how it treats drug offenders.

A growing number of communities are offering needle exchange programs for IV drug users. There’s a greater availability of naloxone, a drug which counters the effects of an opioid overdose. The state legislature passed a bill this year offering more treatment options for heroin addicts.

Someone with an up-close view of these recent changes is John Tilley, a former Kentucky House member from Hopkinsville who now serves as Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

Tilley says there’s been a growing recognition from both conservatives and liberals that simply throwing drug addicts in jail doesn’t cure the problem.

Grayson County Sheriff's Office

Sheriff’s deputies in Grayson County have discovered a crop of marijuana planted between rows of corn and they’ve sent a message to the unknown grower on Twitter.

The message is #WeGotYoWeed.

WFIE TV reports deputies found 254 marijuana plants in a cornfield a few hundred feet off Highway 54. The estimated value of the marijuana is $600,000.

The deputies left a handwritten note in the field that says, “Thanks for the weed. If you’d like to claim it, you can come by the office.”

The Grayson County Sheriff's Office said an anonymous tip led deputies to the field. So far, no arrests have been made.

Many More People Seek Medical Help For Opioid Abuse

Aug 1, 2016
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Health care claims for people with opioid dependence diagnoses rose more than 3,000 percent between 2007 and 2014, according to an analysis of insurance records.

The findings illustrate that the opioid problem is "in the general mainstream," says Robin Gelburd, president of Fair Health, a nonprofit that analyzes health care costs and conducted the study.

The researchers used de-identified claims data from insurers representing 150 million patients who either have insurance through work or buy coverage on their own. They looked for diagnosis codes related to opioid dependency and abuse, adverse effects of heroin use or problems caused by the misuse or abuse of other types of opiates, including prescription drugs.

They found that health care costs related to opioid dependence increased most sharply since 2011, a period marked by increased attention to the problem and a growing pressure on physicians to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions.

Younger patients ages 19 to 35 were most likely to be diagnosed as opioid dependent. Dependence is defined by symptoms such as increased tolerance, withdrawal or unsuccessful attempts to quit.

A Bowling Green organization that provides treatment for youth suffering from alcohol and drug dependency has received additional state dollars. 

Attorney General Andy Beshear presented Necco with a $700,000 check Thursday.  Beshear said early intervention is key to breaking the cycle of addiction.

"If you can get somebody successfully through recovery, not only are they not going to use, but their kids and their kids' kids are less likely to use," stated Beshear.  "By investing in adolescent treatment now, we increase our chances of reducing future costs of law enforcement, incarceration, and health services."

Necco received the funding from an Oxycontin lawsuit filed by the attorney general’s office against Purdue Pharma.  The settlement dollars are going to drug treatment and recovery facilities throughout Kentucky. 

Necco has ten offices statewide, including locations in Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Owensboro, and Somerset.

Aaron Payne, Ohio Valley ReSource

As the opioid epidemic continues to plague the Ohio Valley with addiction and death, the search for safer methods of pain management has become increasingly urgent.

Advocates for medical marijuana have recently made inroads in the area with growing scientific evidence that the substance currently considered of no medical value by the federal government might be a tool to wean those suffering from chronic pain off of more dangerous drugs

Part of the hope behind such proposals is to offer a safer alternative for chronic pain patients, who are often prescribed opioids. State health data show that in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, opioids were involved in at least 3,373 overdose deaths in 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available. The Centers for Disease Control found that in 2014 the three states were among the five states with the nation’s highest rates of drug overdose deaths, largely driven by opioids. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich signed legislation last month that will make Ohio the 25th state with medical marijuana. Legislators in Kentucky recently held the first committee hearing to discuss crafting a similar bill.

The continuing debate is over whether there’s scientific evidence to back up that hope or if it’s just a pipe dream.

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The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

The bill is an amalgam of more than a dozen proposals passed through the year in the House and Senate. And while it has lots of new policies and provisions — from creating a task force to study how best to treat pain, to encouraging states to create prescription drug monitoring programs — it doesn't have much money to put them in place.

President Obama had requested $1.1 billion to help pay for more addiction treatment programs and other initiatives. But the version agreed to by House and Senate Republicans last week didn't include all that money. In the end, it will probably get about half that much.

"It's clear that efforts to prevent and treat the opioid epidemic will fall short without additional investments," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said in a statement after House and Senate negotiators hammered out the final bill.

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The House on Friday passed sweeping legislation — endorsed by Democrats and Republicans — that would flood states with money for opioid and heroin addiction treatment programs.

The White House earlier this week called for $1.2 billion to fund a bill that would include programs to train police officers to administer a drug overdose antidote, expand childcare for mothers in residential treatment, and allow physicians to prescribe more people a drug that treats addiction. The House version of the measure only included $131 million.

But Al Guida, a mental health and substance abuse lobbyist in Washington, said that number is still the biggest chunk of funding for substance abuse treatment in decades.

“That’s probably the largest single commitment to expanding addiction treatment in a generation,” he said.

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A Bowling Green-based health group is expanding the number of naloxone training programs in southern Kentucky.

Naloxone is a medication that helps prevent overdose deaths from opioids such as heroin.

The Barren River District Health Department is planning trainings with Simpson County law enforcement and nurses who work in several local school districts, including Bowling Green Independent, and Barren, Butler, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, and Simpson counties.

Chip Krause, a disease intervention specialist with the Barren River District Health Department, is leading the tsessions.

In Louisville Visit, McConnell Touts Anti-Opioids Bill

Mar 23, 2016
Abbey Oldham

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell visited a Louisville organization Tuesday to talk about federal legislation that would help boost substance abuse treatment programs across the country.

McConnell met with officials from the Louisville chapter of Volunteers of America to discuss the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA.

The bill would authorize the U.S. Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use, which have hit Kentucky and Southern Indiana particularly hard. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation earlier this month, with both McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul voting in favor.

“People like myself and other members of our delegation will be backing up grant applications that will be made from organizations like this to try to help them expand and treat more people,” McConnell said Tuesday.

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An increased number of Kentuckians are affected by heroin abuse, according to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll released this week.

The poll asked adult Kentucky residents about the influence of drug misuse on their family members and friends.

It found 13 percent of Kentucky adults have a family member or friend who’s experienced issues because of using heroin. In 2013, only 9 percent of respondents answered yes to the same question.

The poll was produced by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

In 2012, state lawmakers passed legislation to address so-called pill mills. Last year, state officials said the “pill-mill bill” had been effective in reducing prescription drug abuse.

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