Kentucky behavioral health specialist says the state has been ‘epicenter’ of the nation’s addiction epidemic for almost 20 years

Though the United States’ addiction problem and overdose deaths has sparked national attention, the epidemic in Kentucky dates back to the late 1990s. Geoff Wilson, a Lexington-based substance abuse counselor, said the No. 1 place to get a prescribed narcotic in the United States between 1998 and 2001 was Martin and Lawrence counties, followed by Pike County and Johnson County. “We’ve been the epicenter of this catastrophe since 1997 and 1998,” he said.

Wilson, a business development director at The Ridge Behavioral Health System in Lexington, made these remarks and more at the close of Baptist Health Paducah‘s 10th annual symposium on addiction and compulsive orders, Joshua Roberts reports for The Paducah Sun. The symposium saw its largest-ever crowd of 140 participants, most of them health-care professionals or educators. Nearly all said they had known a young adult between the ages of 18 and 30 who died from an overdose.

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, 1,248 people died of drug overdoses last year, up from 1,088 the year before. “We have more deaths by overdose than car wrecks,” Wilson said.

“Kentucky’s addiction problem — and the recent spike in overdose fatalities — has been compounded by the rise of the powerful painkiller fentanyl,” Roberts writes.
Fentanyl, which is anywhere from 10 to 100 times more potent than heroin, is a selling spot for drug dealers, Wilson told the audience.

“For the drug dealers out there, it kind of makes sense. If I get fentanyl . . . I mix it with heroin, I can spread out the heroin so much further, and I can sell it to a lot larger population,” Wilson said.

“Prescribed opiates are nothing new,” Roberts writes. “They’ve been around for decades, but use and abuse has expanded because ‘Somewhere along the way our country decided you’re just not supposed to experience pain anymore,’ Wilson added.

The U.S., he said, consumes 95 to 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone and 73 percent of the world’s oxycodone.

Fentanyl, he added, comes largely from Chinese manufacturers and moves through Mexico into the U.S.”

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