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WKYT Investigates: The addiction crisis in Kentucky


ROWAN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - It's a troubling statistic - Kentucky has some of the highest overdose rates in the country.

More than 1,000 people in our state die from a prescription drug overdose each year. Many Kentuckians are now finding ways to fight pain pill addiction.

For many of the men whose faces we can't show you, coming in to Pathways is the hardest part. Arrests, court dates, broken hearts and battered relationships often lead them there.

"After I lost my job, after I was in legal trouble, at the end of a failed marriage, asking for some money for lunch for the day, my little girl who I didn't think had felt this, had said 'hold on I got some money in a birthday card and I'll go get it and you can have that.' And that made me feel horrible, but I had already taken it. I had already found it, and took it," explained Garrett Haynes.

Haynes found help at Pathways in the Morehead Inspiration Center. Men like Haynes, many addicted to prescription medications, go to Pathways to fill the void pain meds once overwhelmed.

"Kentucky really is recognized as the epicenter of prescription opiate abuse," noted addiction expert Dr. Sharon Walsh, "during the early 1990s, mid-1990s there was a big change in prescribing and a big push by the medical societies to increase pain prescriptions to make sure that pain did not go untreated."

Dr. Walsh describes the feeling many prescription pain medications give to those taking it as warm, happy, and relaxed.

"Once someone actually takes them regularly like any other opiate, then there are changes that go on in the body that make them actually physically dependent so that they really need to take the drug in order to just feel normal."

Law enforcement in one Kentucky county has made cracking down on prescription abuse a high priority.

"We get numerous tips from people that have information. They see an unusual amount of traffic in their area, or they know because one of their family members is involved, but either way we're getting tips from the public, and they're letting us know what's going on," explained Laurel County Sheriff's Deputy Gilbert Acciardo.

The men at Pathways are often court-ordered to go.

"I would like to see personally that this be not a last resort for DOC and court order, and everything like a last ditch thing. I think it would save a lot of lives," said Haynes, "I'm not back to the person I was, I'm the person I'm supposed to be."


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