Opioid Abuse May Finally Be Declining in Kentucky

By McCarton Ackerman 08/27/15

Kentucky has seen results after House Bill 1 went into effect.

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Three years after Kentucky launched its landmark prescription drug abuse legislation to help crackdown on pill mills and rampant addiction throughout the state, new data shows the state's efforts appear to have worked.

The year-long study out of the University of Kentucky found that since House Bill 1 went into effect, doctor shopping has decreased by 50%. The number of patients receiving oxycodone prescriptions from 5-10 prescribers declined by 25%, while those receiving oxycodone prescriptions from 11-15 prescribers dropped by 64%. Hydrocodone prescriptions from the same number of prescribers also dropped by 35% and 85%, respectively.

Because House Bill 1 also mandates that only licensed physicians can operate pain management facilities, 24 of these non-physician owned facilities have since closed down.

“House Bill 1 was a bipartisan effort designed to help us fight the epidemic of prescription drug abuse in Kentucky, and it’s doing exactly that,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “Not only have we seen a decline in doctor shopping and prescriptions for heavily abused medications, pill mills have closed and the provider community at large has become more educated and committed to using best practices for prescribing these commonly abused medications.”

In addition to listing several strategies to help prevent prescription drug abuse, it also expanded Kentucky’s prescription drug monitoring system known as KASPER and mandated that both pharmacists and physicians register.

But despite the progress, state officials made it clear that the battle is far from over.

“It’s estimated in Kentucky that we may have as many as half a million of our fellow Kentuckians addicted to some drug. It’s estimated that maybe half of those would benefit from treatment. We have less than 2,500 treatment beds in this state right now,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo. “If your family hasn’t been touched by this problem, I would suggest you get down on your knees and thank your Lord for that.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.