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Kentucky Drug Addiction


Illegal or illicit drug use in Kentucky represents one of the country’s deadliest habits. According to the Trust for America’s Health, Kentucky has the third-highest drug overdose mortality rate in the nation. An estimated 23.6 people per 100,000 Kentucky residents experience drug overdose fatalities, according to the report. This rate is significantly higher than 1999’s numbers, where rates were 4.9 per 100,000.

Abuse of illegal drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine and/or heroin is a growing and deadly problem in the state. Fortunately treatments are available to help a person overcome Kentucky drug abuse and addiction.

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, the seven counties with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths, starting with the county with the highest rates, are: Floyd, Pike, Campbell, Kenton, Boone, Fayette and McCracken counties.

One of the most significant drug threats in Kentucky is that of heroin abuse. Heroin overdose death rates have risen from 22 in 2011 to 143 in 2012, according to the Kentucky Medical Examiner. In the state, the cost of drug use and abuse is steep: According to the “Courier-Journal,” drug abuse costs the state of Kentucky $6 billion on an annual basis. These costs include for health care, treatment, accidents and additional expenses.

Commonly Abused Drugs

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the most commonly abused street (illegal) drugs in the state are marijuana, cocaine, stimulants (such as methamphetamine) and heroin. Understanding the signs, symptoms and treatments for abuse of these drugs can help you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse become sober.

Although many people attempt to beat a drug habit on their own, Kentucky drug addiction is a disease that affects a person’s body and mind. Without professional treatment, it can be difficult for a person to overcome the substance abuse that has taken hold of their brains.


Cocaine is a drug harvested from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows in South America. The drug is a Schedule II drug, which means that it has a very high potential for abuse, but does have pharmaceutical uses as prescribed by a doctor in very low dosages.

Cocaine is a drug that could be injected or smoked. This causes the effect of increasing dopamine in the brain, which creates pleasurable feelings or a “high” that lasts anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. The short, but extreme high can create an addiction.

Cocaine is dangerous because of its effects on body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Cocaine users have been known to experience heart attacks, strokes and respiratory arrest. Also, if people use cocaine by injecting it, this increases the risk for side effects of IV drug use, including HIV, hepatitis C and infections of the heart.

While there are no medications available to reduce the detoxification symptoms associated with stopping using cocaine, treatment for cocaine abuse can include mental health support and education to help a person learn how to live without abusing cocaine.


Heroin is an opioid drug that is created from the seed pod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin is sold as a white or brown powder that can be sniffed, snorted or smoked. Heroin is a Schedule I drug, which means the drug is highly addictive, but does not have medical uses. When a person in Kentucky uses the drug, it attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain, which creates pain-relieving and euphoric effects. However, heroin can also cause a person to slow his or her breathing, which can result in respiratory arrest.

The drug is extremely addictive due to the euphoria it creates, and it is highly addictive. Signs a person may be abusing heroin include flushed skin, heavy extremities, difficulty thinking clearly and appearing very sleepy and drowsy. Sometimes heroin is mixed or “cut” with other substances, such as starch, sugar, the painkiller fentanyl or the poison strychnine. Because different formulations exist, heroin can be dangerous to the user each time he or she abuses the drug.

In addition to the risk of overdose and respiratory arrest, people who abuse heroin can also experience an increased amount of respiratory infections. If a person abuses heroin by injecting it, he or she is at an increased risk for infections, such as HIV, hepatitis or endocarditis.

Because heroin is highly addictive and therefore difficult to detox from, seeking rehabilitation can help a person overcome Kentucky drug addiction. Symptoms of a person withdrawing from heroin include intense drug cravings, restlessness, muscle pain and difficulty sleeping. Medication treatments are available to help reduce the detox symptoms associated with abusing heroin. Examples of these medications include methadone and Suboxone. These medications are designed to reduce cravings and ease the transition to stopping heroin abuse.

Crystal Meth

Crystal methamphetamine or crystal meth is a central nervous stimulant that is also called “ice,” “glass” or “rock.” Using methamphetamine increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, which creates a euphoric rush that is significantly more potent than cocaine.

Methamphetamine abuse has dangerous short- and long-term effects. These include increased body temperature that can reach dangerous levels, paranoia, rotting teeth, skin sores, violent episodes and increased risk for HIV/AIDS from intravenous drug use.

Signs someone you know is using meth include changes in personal appearance or grooming, loss of appetite, sudden weight loss, erratic movements, staying awake for days at a time, violent episodes, psychotic behavior and experiencing problems with money, such as stealing, selling possessions or asking to borrow money often.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, breaking an addiction to crystal meth is one of the most difficult to accomplish. However, it can be done, but professional drug treatment is recommended. Treatment methods include individual counseling, group and individual therapy, education and cognitive-behavioral counseling to help a person overcome their drug habit.

If you or a loved one is addicted to illicit substances, otherwise known as street drugs, you do not have to fight the illness alone. Seeking treatment can help you turn your life around and stop the vicious cycle once and for all. Contact an addiction professional today and find the support you need to finally overcome the deadly habit.