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Strategies make an impact on abuse of prescription drugs

Aug. 09, 2013 @ 11:36 PM

Kentucky is seeing some evidence that steps taken to combat the illicit use of prescription drugs are having an impact.

Gov. Steve Beshear recently touted two measures that he said showed legislation passed last year was working.

One was a decline in the number of overdose deaths attributed to prescription or illicit drugs, from 1,023 in 2011 to 1,004 last year. It marked the first year-to-year decline in more than a decade. In nearby Boyd County, the decline in prescription drug overdose deaths was even more pronounced, from 40 in 2011 to 20 last year.

The other barometer, Beshear said, was a decrease in the prescribing rates for hydrocodone and oxycodone -- highly addictive pain medications in high demand among pill dealers and addicts. From August 2012 to this past May, the number of hydrocodone doses fell by 9.5 and the doses of oxycodone declined by 10.5 percent, the governor's office said.

The 2012 law bolstered the state's prescription monitoring system and focused on pain management clinics. Since it was passed, 20 non-physician-owned pain management clinics have closed in the state, and the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services has issued cease-and-desist letters to four more pain management facilities accused of not complying with state regulations. In addition, thousands more medical providers are registered with the electronic prescription tracking system.

The progress against prescription drug abuse hasn't come without a cost, however. As prescription drugs have been harder to come by, more abusers are turning to heroin. And that has prompted an increase in heroin overdoes deaths. That's why efforts to provide more addiction treatment are needed to help curb overall use of deadly drugs.

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