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Fewer Teens are Abusing Prescription Drugs in Kentucky

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear

A recently released survey shows that the number of Kentucky teens abusing prescription drugs last year has dropped compared to four years ago.

The 2012 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention School Survey found 9% of high school seniors abused prescription drugs last year, compared with 15.2% in 2008. Specifically, prescription drug abuse rates among sophomores decreased from 14.1% to 7.6%. Among teens in Grade 8, the rate decreased from 6.5% to 2.9%, the Courier-Journal reports.

Officials in Kentucky said the drop is likely due to a law signed by Governor Steve Beshear in 2012 that requires all pain clinics be licensed, specifies requirements for ownership and employment, obliges Kentucky’s licensure board to develop regulations for pain clinics and gives law enforcement easier access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring database.

Under the new law, doctors must examine patients, take full medical histories, and check electronic prescription records before writing prescriptions for opioids. The law also includes education campaigns for school students. According to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway this education initiative has reached 25,000 students, teachers and parents.

“Education works,” Beshear said in a news release. “Our public health and law enforcement communities have worked tirelessly to educate the public about the dangers of using prescriptions outside of a doctor’s care. And this report shows that when people have the correct information, they make better choices.”

However, while this is seemingly good news on the addiction front, some addiction experts said the drop in prescription drug abuse might not tell the whole story, as the drop in prescription drug abuse among teens may be accompanied by a rise in heroin use in this age group.

“The General Assembly has passed legislation to make it more difficult to access prescription drugs,” said Karyn Hascal, president of The Healing Place recovery program in Louisville. “My concern is the unintended consequence is that people have switched to heroin. … The problem is addiction, not the drug of the day.”

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