FRANKFORT, Ky. (7/27/13) – For the first time in a decade, Kentucky overdose deaths declined in 2012, according to a report issued today by the Office of Drug Control Policy. Even with the overall drop, autopsied overdose deaths attributed to the use of heroin increased 550 percent over the previous year, to 143 cases, up from 22 in 2011.
Of the 1,004 overdose fatalities in 2012, 888 were found to be unintentional, 59 were suicides and 57 remain undetermined, according to the report. In 2011, there were 1023 overdose deaths in Kentucky.
The data, contained in the 2012 Overdose Fatality Report, was compiled from the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office, the Kentucky Injury Prevention & Research Council, and the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics. The report was mandated under a provision in HB 1 from the 2012 Special Session.
“Obviously, we’re pleased to see that we’ve broken the trend of steadily increasing drug overdose numbers,” said Van Ingram, executive director of the Office of Drug Control Policy.
The report also reveals that overdose deaths attributed to the use of heroin accounted for nearly one-fifth -- 19.56 percent -- of all Kentucky Medical Examiner drug overdose cases in 2012. In 2011, that percentage was 3.22 percent.
Ingram added that while the increase in heroin deaths is troubling, it was not completely unexpected. Kentucky first started seeing an increase in heroin use and deaths when the formulation for Oxycontin was changed in 2010 and for Opana in 2011 to make those drugs more difficult for intravenous drug use.
“As House Bill 1 has taken effect, opiates available through illicit means – doctor shopping and street sales – have become less available, requiring drug users to seek out cheaper and more available alternatives,” Ingram said. “Unfortunately, that’s heroin.”
Other significant findings include:
• Jefferson County had the most overdose deaths of any county, with 167.
• The largest increase in overdose fatalities occurred in Campbell County, with 54 in 2012 compared to 25 deaths in 2011.
• The largest decrease occurred in Floyd County, with 23 fewer fatalities in 2012 than 2011 (14 versus 37, respectively). Other counties with significant declines in 2012 include Clay (17 fewer), Knox (12 fewer), and Johnson (11 fewer).
• Overdose deaths in many Eastern Kentucky counties, when compared by 100,000 population, combined 2011 and 2012 data, showed high rates. The top 10 counties by overdose deaths per 100,000 people for 2011 and 2012 combined are:
Leslie County 85 per 100,000
Clinton County 78 per 100,000
Clay County 76 per 100,000
Estill County 65 per 100,000
Floyd County 65 per 100,000
Nicholas County 64 per 100,000
Perry County 63 per 100,000
Whitley County 56 per 100,000
Monroe County 53 per 100,000
Magoffin County 53 per 100,000
Of the overdose deaths autopsied by the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office in 2012:
• Alprazolam remained the most detected controlled substance in overdose deaths, present in 41.44 percent of all autopsied cases.
• Morphine was next at 32.01 percent, followed by hydrocodone 25.99 percent, Oxycodone 24.21 percent, Heroin at 19.56 percent, and Oxymorphone at 17.51 percent. The report notes many of the cases with morphine detected may in fact involve heroin, as morphine is the major pharmaceutical substance detected in the blood after injection of heroin.
• The youngest overdose fatality was 16 years old and the oldest was 72 years old. The average age of an overdose victim was 40, and the majority – 58 percent – were male.
To view the report in its entirety, visit: http://odcp.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/C6EE39C4-E6EE-4E4B-913F-C45BD1E177AD/0/2012ODCPOverdoseDeathReportEDITS3.pdf.
Information provided by Jennifer Brislin (Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet)
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