(FRANKFORT, Ky - January 30, 2020) A new Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) report shows an uptick in prescription pain medicine misuse last year, while heroin and methamphetamine use remained a steady problem. Nearly two in five Kentucky adults in 2019 said they knew someone who misused prescription pain meds, compared to about one in five for meth and heroin, according to the KHIP report.
KHIP, an annual telephone poll of Kentucky adults about health and health policy issues, is sponsored jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health. The latest report also found that most Kentuckians believe addiction is a disease, yet just half said they know how to find services or treatment for someone with addiction.
"Addiction, no matter the substance, is both a physical and a psychological chronic disease, so recovery can't happen overnight," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "It's gratifying that Kentucky's efforts appear to be significantly reducing overdose deaths, which were down 15 percent in 2018 over the year before, but this poll tells us we're still in the midst of an addiction crisis. Expanding and getting the word out about treatment options, recognizing that recovery is a long-term process, and reducing the stigma associated with addiction, remain critical to continued progress."

According to the 2019 KHIP report, 38 percent of Kentucky adults knew someone who has experienced problems due to pain prescription misuse, compared to 30 percent in 2017. Twenty-two percent of adults said they had a friend or family who had used meth, and 20 percent knew someone who had used heroin. Meanwhile, Kentucky overdose deaths dropped from 1,477 in 2017 to 1,247 in 2018, according to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.
Most Believe Addiction is a Disease
KHIP found that 66 percent of Kentucky adults believe addiction is a disease, about the same as the last time KHIP posed this question in 2017. Of those, the vast majority (82 percent) believe it is both a psychological and a physical disease.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), physical dependence on a drug often accompanies addiction, which is a brain disease characterized by the inability to stop using the drug despite the harmful consequences.
"This distinction can be difficult to discern, particularly with prescribed pain medications, for which the need for increasing dosages can represent tolerance or a worsening underlying problem, as opposed to the beginning of abuse or addiction," the NIDA website says.
Only Half Know About Treatment Referral
When asked whether they would know how to help someone with an addiction disorder find treatment, only half of Kentucky adults answered yes.
"We know that addiction, while complex and chronic, can be treated successfully," said Dr. Sheila Schuster, executive director of the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition and a member of the Foundation's Community Advisory Council. "In 2018, the Kentucky Cabinets for Health and Family Services and Justice and Public Safety, in partnership with the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center and Operation UNITE, launched a call center and website to connect people across the state with public and private drug treatment providers in real time."
Kentuckians who call 1-833-8KY-HELP (1-833-859-4357) will reach an online specialist who will conduct a brief screening assessment and connect callers with the most appropriate treatment services as quickly as possible, taking cost, location and other factors into consideration. Options include everything from medication-assisted treatment to faith-based care. The same information and resources are also available on the web at FindHelpNowKY.org.
A copy of the KHIP report, Most Believe Addiction is a Disease, is available here.
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About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $29 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.

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