Fentanyl Takes the Top Spot as Louisville’s Deadliest Drug

Michelle Rosenker

July 19, 2019

The United States is in the midst of a public health emergency as the opioid crisis continues to claim the lives of people in every corner of the country. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the nation’s opioid problem as being an epidemic in 2011, the public has gone from abusing prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet to shooting heroin when funding an RX habit became too expensive. Today, those who have survived their opioid addiction and even those who are new in theirs are turning to the abuse of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine. 

For the first time in the country, fentanyl has taken the top spot as the deadliest drug in America. Previously, heroin has filled that number one position, however with the introduction to fentanyl to the states, it has quickly claimed the lives of more than 18,000 people in 2016 alone. Not only are people abusing fentanyl willingly, but many are ingesting it unknowingly, as it is commonly mixed with other substances like heroin, cocaine, and meth. It only takes a mere two milliliters of fentanyl to cause death — an amount so small that anyone at any time could easily overdose. 

Fentanyl Hits Kentucky

In Kentucky, fentanyl is a household name, as more than 763 people died in the state from this powerful substance. Kentucky is no stranger to overdose deaths, however, as it ranks number five in the top five states with the highest rates of deaths caused by overdose. This year marks the first time that fentanyl has been labeled the deadliest drug in Kentucky, as it has been heroin for a number of years in a row. And even though all 50 states are experiencing an influx in fentanyl overdoses, Kentucky is seeing it happen much more often. 

For every 100,000 Kentuckians, 37.2 die from a fatal overdose. This rate is nearly double the national rate of 21.7 per every 100,000 people. Some reasons why the people of Kentucky are experiencing overdose deaths in numbers as excessive as these is because of the illegal pill mills in the area, the presence of meth labs, and the fact that so many people live on several acres of land that are not as close to hospitals and other emergency services that can help treat an opioid overdose in time. Keep in mind that these are just some causes of these death rates, as major pharmaceutical companies have made their mark in the production of the opioid crisis through selling opioid-based medications under the notion that they were not habit-forming.

Fentanyl Crisis in Kentucky

Fentanyl is so potent that even the smallest bit of it can be fatal, as mentioned before. The Louisville Metro Police Department learned this the hard way when a LMPD drug dog overdosed on this substance simply through sniffing for it. Thankfully, the police officers administered Narcan to the canine to save its life. Knowing how dangerous coming into contact with fentanyl can be, the LMPD took the necessary steps of training all officers on this particular substance so they can be informed and prepared, especially as fentanyl is being falsely paraded around in prescription painkiller form, as well. 

Despite fentanyl officially being named the deadliest drug in Kentucky, few people are surprised by this, especially those who work in toxicology. According to the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Van Ingram, fentanyl has been “the leader in drugs found in overdose toxicology in the last three years”.  In that same breath, fentanyl, in particular, has been more closely linked to unintentional overdose deaths, while other opioids like OxyContin have been more consistent with suicides. 

Preventing Fentanyl and Other Opioid Overdoses in Kentucky

Unless one is completely abstinent from opioid abuse, other safeguards designed to prevent fentanyl and other opioid overdoses must be put in place in order to save lives. Just recently, legislation was signed into law that increased the need for research into non-addictive painkiller medications and working to stop the influx of fentanyl into the country. Known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, this new law will provide Kentucky with the aid needed to fight back against the opioid crisis within the state.

The most powerful form of prevention still remains to be information. The more that people in Kentucky and the rest of the country are educated about the dangers of fentanyl and other opioid abuse, the more likely that rates of overdose will decrease. Additionally, access to proper mental health services and addiction treatment programs is also necessary in order to treat the underlying causes of opioid abuse, rather than just the symptoms. 

Hopefully, as more effort is put into curbing the presence of fentanyl in the state, Kentuckians can eventually begin reducing the number of fatal overdoses within their borders.

Get Professional Addiction Help Today

If you or a loved one are in Kentucky and struggling with addiction, JourneyPure’s Louisville treatment program can help. Our experienced staff use a variety of therapy and evidence-based treatments so that you can recover not only from addiction but from the underlying issues as well. Call us today for a private consultation to learn more about your treatment options.