UK study looks at how COVID played a role in spike in overdose deaths in Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A new study at the University of Kentucky is looking at how the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in a significant spike in overdose deaths in Kentucky.
Experts at UK call the influx of illicit fentanyl combined with the COVID-19 shutdown a perfect storm resulting in a 49% spike in the number of drug overdose deaths in Kentucky compared to the same period in 2019.
“We were one of the states that had one of the tallest peaks, and we know now that that was largely driven by fentanyl,” said principal investigator Dr. Rachel Vickers-Smith.
Now, Dr. Vickers-Smith and a team of researchers at UK are working to understand how this happened.
“We need to act, and so we felt like this was a way that we can partner with the community in order to find solutions and really stem the tide of overdose deaths,” said Vickers-Smith.
The study will identify factors that put rural residents who use drugs at higher risk of experiencing harmful effects due to changes in the illicit drug market.
They’ll be interviewing law enforcement, harm reduction specialists and people who sell and or use illicit drugs.
“We wanna hear their perspectives,” Vickers-Smith said. “People who use drugs are experts of their own experience, and so in order to create impactful and sustainable changes, they need to be at the table and in the conversation.”
The study will also look at what drug users do to keep themselves from experiencing harmful effects such as overdose.
Researchers say they will also explore drug users’ attitudes toward potential harm reduction strategies such as peer-and dealer-distributed fentanyl test strips.
Copyright 2023 WKYT. All rights reserved.