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Prescription drug overdoses decline in Boyd

Jul. 27, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

CATLETTSBURG, Ky. -- Overdose deaths from prescription drugs have been cut in half in Boyd County in the past year, but heroin overdoses are on the rise, County Coroner Mark Hammond said Friday.

The trend mirrors much of what is happening across Kentucky where, for the first time in a decade, Kentucky overdose deaths declined in 2012, according to a news release from the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. Overdose deaths across the Bluegrass State were 1,023 in 2011 and dropped to 1,004 last year, according to the release.

The drop was much more dramatic in Boyd County, dropping from 40 in 2011 to 20 last year, Hammond said. He credited laws shutting down pill mills and law enforcement efforts for the decline. The increase in heroin overdoses are up dramatically both in Boyd County and across Kentucky.

"Hospitals and EMS crews are seeing overdoses in heroin," Hammond said.

Tom Adams, director of the county's EMS district, said ambulance crews are seeing the same trends.

"If we can get a call quick enough, we can reverse the overdose with Narcan," he said. "The drug neutralizes opiates." He has seen someone with shallow breathing sit up and start talking within two to three minutes of getting Narcan.

Commonwealth's Attorney David Justice said his office has seen a spike in both heroin and meth cases since local pill mills and the pipeline to Florida drug clinics have been shut down.

"In the long run, meth will kill more people," Justice said. "The concern with heroin is they don't know how strong a dose they're getting. Too strong a dose will kill them."

Boyd County Sheriff Terry Keelin said drug users are turning to heroin when they can't get a ready supply of Oxycontin.

"Oxys are opium-based," he said. "Both heroin and cocaine are coming in from outside the country. They get to the Tri-State through Columbus and Detroit."

Changes in prescription drug laws are being cited for the decrease in prescription pill overdose deaths.

"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," Van Ingram, executive director of Kentucky's Office of Drug Control Policy, said. "Unfortunately, that's heroin."

A state report shows that overdose deaths attributed to the use of heroin accounted for nearly 20 percent of all Kentucky Medical Examiner drug overdose cases in 2012. In 2011, that percentage was 3.2 percent.