Report Shows Methadone Leading Cause Of Overdose Deaths

By: Danielle Morgan Email
By: Danielle Morgan Email

Out of nearly 500 overdose deaths in Kentucky last year, the state medical examiner's annual report says more than 40 percent of the autopsies showed the pain killer, Methadone was the leading cause. Other officials say that number may be misleading and Methadone shouldn't be the lone target.

A Louisville man was arrested Tuesday for trying to deal Methadone in Clay County where the sheriff and law enforcement officials with Operation UNITE say abuse of the drug is on the rise there and across the region.

"Methadone seems to be a drug we're purchasing from dealers that we used to get OxyContin and other drugs from," said Paul Hayes with Operation UNITE.

Task Force Manager Paul Hayes says OxyContin isn't being prescribed as often by doctors, making it harder to get and when abusers can't afford the OxyContin’s that sell for up to $160 for one pill, they tend to use Methadone, a drug they can buy on the street for one hundred dollars less. He says even if the drug is being more abused, most state officials seem to agree that Methadone alone is not in fact the cause of overdose deaths.

"It's not necessarily quote, they've took too many, as it is the dangerous combination of the drugs," said Clay County Sheriff Kevin Johnson.

"Particularly those deaths I think will be Xanax and Methadone or a mixture of Xanax and other drugs and it's a deadly potion," Hayes said.

Officials in the state medical examiner's office say other drugs may have been detected in the deaths in 2006, but Methadone was the dominate drug.

According to Kentucky's electronic reporting system, KASPER, it's certainly not the most prescribed drug. The top three counties in East Kentucky: Perry, Laurel and Floyd Counties had just over three thousand prescriptions of Methadone combined in 2005 while the number of scripts of Hydrocodone, a less powerful pain killer, was more than 38,000 in Floyd County alone.

The KASPER system shows Hydrocodone and Xanax together make up 50 percent of all prescribed controlled drugs in Kentucky for five years.

The following is a complete list of how your county ranks in the number of Methadone and Hydrocodone prescriptions:
County # of Methadone # of Hydrocodone
JEFFERSON 7,959 265,563
FAYETTE 4,074 77,358
KENTON 1,887 38,212
MADISON 1,815 22,522
PERRY 1,676 22,829
JESSAMINE 1,650 17,383
CAMPBELL 1,310 32,841
LAUREL 1,264 31,924
BOONE 1,244 31,983
FLOYD 1,086 38,437
PULASKI 1,023 26,440
BREATHITT 1,002 10,379
CLARK 969 16,215
WHITLEY 921 49,897
WARREN 906 40,590
GARRARD 881 6,325
MCCRACKEN 868 32,104
LINCOLN 848 10,247
POWELL 811 8,345
FRANKLIN 795 17,741
HARDIN 775 25,358
HARLAN 689 17,860
MONTGOMERY 686 12,096
ROWAN 660 7,476
ROCKCASTLE 652 6,738
SCOTT 626 13,693
BOYLE 576 10,984
JOHNSON 554 15,652
NELSON 551 19,115
CLAY 523 23,393
GRAVES 494 20,276
MAGOFFIN 491 9,504
BULLITT 480 15,519
MERCER 467 8,249
WAYNE 448 14,334
BOURBON 440 7,459
LESLIE 436 7,771
TAYLOR 427 9,385
KNOX 416 22,926
ESTILL 411 4,837
WOODFORD 395 6,938
HENDERSON 392 19,860
GREENUP 387 18,199
LEE 381 7,329
PIKE 375 48,150
WOLFE 364 4,962
BELL 341 30,768
HOPKINS 323 21,502
CARTER 319 6,982
KNOTT 316 10,397
OWSLEY 316 4,958
DAVIESS 314 16,634
MARSHALL 309 18,371
MARION 300 7,984
GRANT 296 10,448
LETCHER 289 22,252
NICHOLAS 272 2,801
ANDERSON 271 8,029
CALLOWAY 262 14,271
BATH 258 5,155
CLINTON 257 9,283
BRECKINRIDGE 254 7,075
SHELBY 245 14,436
MCCREARY 242 15,368
MEADE 235 5,050
CHRISTIAN 230 19,382
MASON 228 3,980
MENIFEE 224 2,583
JACKSON 223 4,965
OHIO 221 10,227
ALLEN 212 7,877
LAWRENCE 212 6,444
BARREN 207 16,931
FLEMING 205 5,323
MARTIN 199 10,703
OLDHAM 191 11,903
LOGAN 190 9,616
CASEY 182 7,070
HARRISON 182 2,672
MORGAN 182 2,857
BRACKEN 170 2,846
GRAYSON 167 14,903
SPENCER 167 6,258
MUHLENBERG 157 16,902
LEWIS 147 6,291
LIVINGSTON 143 7,636
TRIGG 143 6,271
BOYD 138 11,270
RUSSELL 137 4,066
CRITTENDEN 130 6,211
CALDWELL 128 7,506
PENDLETON 127 3,467
ADAIR 122 5,826
UNION 116 6,623
WASHINGTON 116 1,439
LYON 102 5,853
METCALFE 93 3,526
WEBSTER 92 7,802
MONROE 91 11,298
CARLISLE 90 2,057
EDMONSON 89 5,871
TODD 87 3,384
CARROLL 73 3,949
HENRY 71 5,554
CUMBERLAND 65 2,061
SIMPSON 64 9,412
BALLARD 63 4,090
FULTON 59 4,606
BUTLER 57 5,722
OWEN 55 2,976
LARUE 52 1,410
ELLIOTT 51 2,037
GALLATIN 50 3,042
ROBERTSON 47 440
HICKMAN 43 2,027
GREEN 42 985
HART 38 4,406
MCLEAN 37 2,561
TRIMBLE 32 2,279
HANCOCK 25 1,732
Totals 58,268 1,736,290


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