Drug overdoses in Kentucky

An examination of Kentucky emergency department, inpatient hospitalization and mortality data over an 11-year period revealed an alarming increase in drug overdoses in Kentucky.

Drug overdose mortality rates among Kentuckians increased 282 percent between 2000 and 2010, from a rate of six overdose deaths per 100,000 residents in 2000 to 22.9 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010, according to a drug overdose morbidity and mortality report released this week by the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC).

KIPRC, located in the University of Kentucky College of Public Health is a bona fide agent for the Kentucky Department for Public Health. Preliminary 2011 data indicate that drug overdose numbers and rates continued to increase in 2011, for an estimated fatality rate of 23.9 per 100,000.

“This report contains some landmark findings that will help all those concerned about public and mental health issues to better understand both the current status of and trends related to drug overdoses in Kentucky,” said Dr. Stephanie K. Mayfield, Commissioner of the Department for Public Health. “For the first time, we have an analysis of multiple data sources that shows just how fast drug overdoses are increasing and who is being affected by them. The report provides a baseline from which we can measure potential improvement, and as a result of HB1, the comprehensive prescription drug control and enforcement act which was enacted by the legislature in 2012, and other efforts.”

The impact on Kentucky is costly. Additional analysis showed hospitalization and emergency department billing for drug overdoses totaled $78 million, of which Medicaid was billed for over $21 million.

Prescription and non-prescription drug overdoses accounted for 979 deaths, 4,348 hospitalizations and 4,770 emergency department visits among Kentucky residents in 2010. The highest numbers of Kentucky drug overdose emergency department visits involved opiates (697) and benzodiazepine- based tranquilizers (693). The highest number of inpatient hospitalizations for drug poisoning involved benzodiazepine-based tranquilizers (1,335) and the highest number of deaths were related to opioid ingestion (443).

In 2010, Kentucky females were hospitalized more often than males for intentional drug overdose-related self-harm, and women had a higher number of drug overdose-related emergency department visits than men. Kentucky males, though, died more often than females from unintentional drug overdoses.

“The use of multiple strategies is necessary to substantially reduce prescription drug abuse among our residents,” said Terry Bunn, director of KIPRC. “It will take a cooperative effort among Kentucky legislators, doctors, public health advocates, law enforcers, educators and concerned residents – a united Kentucky – to address these alarming facts and create a safer environment for all Kentucky residents.”



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