One In Three Adults In Northern Kentucky Knows A Heroin User

By Keri Blakinger 01/22/16

Heroin use is on the rise in yet another part of the country.


Kentucky—especially northern Kentucky—has been hard hit by the heroin epidemic, and the latest numbers prove it.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, released by a Cincinnati-based foundation called Interact for Health, showed that overall 13% of Kentucky residents know someone who has used heroin.

However, in northern Kentucky, those numbers are higher. The foundation found that 35% of people in northern Kentucky said yes when asked if they had a friend or family member who has used heroin.

That’s an increase over 2014 data, which showed that roughly one in four northern Kentuckians knew someone who used heroin. Even before the increase, the numbers were shocking, but not to people who have been paying attention to the growing crisis.

"The number of overdoses in 2015 are significantly higher than 2014, so one would expect the number of people who know a victim would be up, too," Jim Thaxton, coordinator for the Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response Task Force, told The Cincinnati Inquirer.

According to a St. Elizabeth’s Healthcare 2015 year-end report, ER staff treated—and often reversed—1,168 overdoses, a 57% increase over 2014 numbers.

Thaxton also offered comments that could point to another reason for the increase in the number of people who say they know an addict. Namely, more people are willing to talk about addiction today.

"The stigma associated with people recovering from substance use disorders appears to be declining, allowing more open discussion. It is now socially acceptable to tell people you are in recovery," he said.

That’s not to say it’s the whole cause of the startling data, though; advocates see anecdotal evidence that backs up the numbers. "Too many people are attending the funerals of neighbors, students, family members," said Bonnie Hedrick, coordinator for NKY Prevention Alliance. "Families are desperate and are seeking help from family, friends, and trusted acquaintances."

The latest poll was conducted in September and October, using a random sample of 1,608 adults from across the state. Researchers estimated that the margin of error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.