Fentanyl blamed for sharp increase in Kentucky’s drug overdose deaths


Tablets believed to be laced with fentanyl are displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration Northeast Regional Laboratory on October 8, 2019 in New York. – According to US government data, about 32,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2018. That accounts for 46 percent of all fatal overdoses. Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for a range of conditions, has been central to the American opioid crisis which began in the late 1990s. (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

PULASKI COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56/WKYT) – The United States saw 100,000 drug overdose deaths in a one-year period after the pandemic started. What’s more, Kentucky experienced a 54% increase during the same period.

Several organizations in Kentucky are focused on prevention and recovery.

“Makes you sick to your stomach. Makes you angry. This is a preventable disease,” said Nancy Hale, president of Operation Unite.

Operation Unite is a drug treatment education and enforcement organization. Hale’s nephew was one of those who died and, like so many others, fentanyl gets a lot of the blame.

“He thought he was going to be using Percocet 30. Instead, it was laced with fentanyl. It took his life immediately,” Hale said.

The drug is being blamed for the sharp increase in deaths. Kentucky experienced 800 more overdose deaths from April 2020 to April of this year than it saw in the previous year.

“One of the things I am sure of is there has never been a more deadly time in the history of society for someone to be in addiction,” said Matt Brown with Addiction Recovery Care.

Brown says the good news is that there is a solution.

“I believe that we know what works. We know that immediate access to individualized treatment works,” Brown said.

Addiction Recovery Care has a number of online help seminars that are especially helpful during the holidays, which can be a rough time. You can find more information about ARC here.

“Sometimes, I feel that, because of fentanyl, our backs are against the wall again, and we’ve forgotten about the preventable piece,” Hale said.

Hale says Operation Unite focused on prevention 18 years ago and needs to do so again.


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